CORD referendum team meets IEBC boss Issack Hassan

Okoa Kenya committee of experts chairman Paul Mwangi addressing the press after meeting with the IEBC to discuss the process of the referendum. With him is Kheled Khalifa. (Photo: Tabitha otwori/Standard)

Nairobi, Kenya: The Opposition’s referendum team Wednesday met officials of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as they seek to consult widely over the process.

The team from the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) led by chairman Paul Mwangi, which has hitherto not had any kind words for the electoral body, had what they termed as “a consultative meeting” with IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan at his Anniversary Towers offices in Nairobi.

CORD had insisted that the poll agency should not shepherd the planned national referendum, accusing it of bungling last year’s General Election.

The subject is included in CORD’s referendum agenda, with the Opposition pushing for an overhaul of the electoral body, having said in its Saba Saba Day resolutions read out in Uhuru Park on July 7 that the disbandment of the commission is part of their 13-point agenda for change.

Emerging from the closed-door meeting, also attended by IEBC commissioners and other top officials of the electoral body, Mwangi who addressed the Press outside the commission’s offices described the meeting as one of many lined up with IEBC as their referendum bid takes shape.

“The (referendum) committee felt that this meeting was important on the premise that Article 257 is a new provision in our constitutional dispensation and neither the committee nor the IEBC have any procedure on this matter," Mwangi said.

Other committee members present were lawyer Kethi Kilonzo, former Labour PS Beatrice Kituyi and human rights activist Khelef Khalifa.

On July 7, CORD unveiled the four as the experts to steer the referendum agenda.

The team said they started with IEBC because the commission will play a key role at various stages in their proposed referendum.

"This is the first of a series of consultative meetings that the committee of experts will seek to hold with the IEBC and other constitutional offices and stakeholders," Mwangi added.

Our source said that given the critical role that the IEBC plays, CORD had no choice but to engage it.

"You know they are our clients no matter how they bash us out there. We could not close our doors when they came calling," a member of the commission who attended the meeting said.

After collecting a million signatures, it is the IEBC that is mandated by law to verify if the signatories are registered voters before forwarding the proposal to the counties.

CORD's committee of experts is expected to hold public hearings and collect memoranda from citizens and other political parties regarding the push for the referendum.

The committee is then expected to frame the referendum question.

The team took issue with IEBC's public pronouncement that the referendum will cost taxpayers Sh8 billion, saying such comments were premature.

"We have asked IEBC to wait until all the processes are done, including drafting of the question to be sent to the counties, before giving estimates of the budget for the plebiscite to avoid inaccurate figures," said Mwangi.

The committee plans to hold more talks with the vote agency and other constitutional bodies that will be involved in their referendum bid.

A meeting with Chief Justice Willy Mutunga was however postponed owing to the CJ's involvement in the ongoing digital migration proceedings at the Supreme Court.

"Due to the ongoing media-related digital migration proceedings currently in progress at the Supreme Court, the meeting between the Chief Justice and CORD's committee of experts that was supposed to take place today has been rescheduled to a date to be announced later," a statement sent to newsrooms from the Judiciary read.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday said CORD was targeting over five million signatures from Kenyans to push for the referendum.

Raila announced that the coalition will meet with many more players in both the public and private sectors.