Electoral agency chairperson Wafula Chebukati has termed his six-year tenure in office successful, adding that he has no regrets.
Speaking during a post-election evaluation forum including political parties through the Political Parties Liaison Committee and the Office of Registrar of Political Parties, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman said these have been his toughest six years.
“I feel good. I feel I have made my contribution to the institution of IEBC and strengthening democracy in this country,” said Chebukati.
He promised to build on the commission’s success stories and leave enough handover reports for the next team to take over from him.
But his remarks come under the backdrop of a fractured electoral body that has seen three commissioners resign while another is facing a tribunal set up to look into a petition to remove the four IEBC commissioners. The tribunal is led by Justice Aggrey Muchelule.
On August 15, commissioners Juliana Cherera, Francis Wanderi, Irene Masit and Justus Nyangaya held a press conference at Serena Hotel rejecting the outcome of the 2022 presidential election, minutes before Chebukati declared William Ruto winner.
What followed was a fractured commission with the Cherera-led team filing affidavits siding with the Azimio team during the presidential results petition at the Supreme Court. However, the move by the four cast them as enemies to the new regime with mounting pressure calling for their ejection.
But, President William Ruto called Chebukati a hero in his maiden speech following his win and awarded him the Elder of the Order of the Golden Heart (EGH) during the Jamhuri Day celebrations on December 12.
Elder of the Order of the Golden Heart is the second highest honour awarded by the Kenyan government after the Chief of the Order of the Golden Heart (CGH).
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The other commissioners Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye who stood with Chebukati were also honoured. However, the fate of the four dissenting commissioners would not be as rosy.
In the months that followed, four petitions accusing the four of gross violation of the Constitution and incompetence were forwarded to the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee paving way for their removal process.
Pushed by UDA-allied politicians, JLAC recommended that President Ruto forms a tribunal to investigate the conduct of IEBC vice-chair Juliana Cherera, commissioners Irene Masit, Justus Nyang’aya and Francis Wanderi with the president adding another blow by suspending the quartet.
While giving his account before the tribunal IEBC CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan said the commissioners’ official vehicles and bodyguards were withdrawn under Chebukati’s direction following their falling out on August 15.
Days before appearing before the tribunal, three of the commissioners - Juliana Cherera, Justus Nyang’aya and Francis Wanderi - resigned leaving Masit to face the nine-member tribunal.
Although Chebukati is the first chairman to work a full tenure in the commission, he hasn’t been short of controversy. In 2017, he oversaw a disputed election that saw the Supreme Court nullify the presidential result forcing the country into a repeat presidential election.
The court found that “the election commission failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution.”
But Chebukati has called the shortfalls of the electoral body “challenges” and yesterday said he will work to correct them through legal reforms.
The IEBC chairman is expected to retire on January 17 together with Molu and Guliye.
Chebukati said even as he exits more needs to be done by the incoming team to enhance the electoral process, especially in technology, transmission of results and legal reforms.
“One area I wish something is done is funding. For the 2022 election, we got funding on the last year and that made it difficult for us to run programmes,” said Chebukati.
He suggests that the government funds the commission as early as 2023 to allow it commence programmes such as registration of voters and voter education.
“The election cycle is continuous and ends with the conclusion of this exercise and publication of the post-election evaluation report which we hope to do in January.”
Other issues discussed in the forum include enhancing party primaries and making them more democratic with the involvement of party members.
“If the people are satisfied with party primaries then we shall have less candidates running as independents,” he said.
The stakeholders further agreed to ensure parties adhere to their rules and institute legal reforms to address the two-thirds gender rule together with other issues recorded in the report.
Ahead of the August polls, IEBC ordered all political parties participating in the upcoming election to adhere to the two-thirds gender rule in all elective posts.
However, the High Court suspended the implementation of the two-thirds gender principle in the nomination of candidates for the 2022 General Elections.
Yesterday’s forum follows last week’s IEBC’s internal Post-Election Evaluation Forum retreat where the commission did a staff debriefing session to review and learn from the experiences of the 2022 elections.