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The next big political ritual: Kicking out the IEBC Boss

By Michael Ndonye | April 30th 2021
IEBC Chair Wafula Chebukati when he appeared before the joint sitting of National Assembly and Senate Legal committee on Justice and legal affairs on the submissions on the Kenya Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020 at the Senate chambers, Parliament buildings, Nairobi [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

I have been watching the political chessboard keenly and reading history books and I have made one conclusion—the soft-spoken electoral agency chair is on the chopping board. Chebukati Wafula Wanyonyi must go! But he will not walk alone.

He will be accompanied by some of his colleagues at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Unless we defy history, an institutionalised political ritual will take place soon. IEBC must be disbanded before the 2022 General Election. Why? Disbanding the electoral commission before a General Election is the norm in Kenya. The remnants of 2007 fears disturbs our political system. That’s why the next big song is likely to be “Chebukati must go!”

Whether the ritual is good or bad, I don't know, but I'm sure that the earth is ‘hard’ for the IEBC commissioners. Four things can happen to a besieged IEBC commissioner: S/he can resign, pushed out, stay put or die. Those who resign carry political sins as red as crimson and since politics is dirty, it lacks the power to cleanse them. Those who are pushed out guilt is imposed on them and a lesson or two.

Those who refuse to leave office willingly await their unceremonial ouster. Those who die, leave others with blame and have no one to seek justice on their behalf — for when political gods want to forget you, they cast lots and subdivide your soiled garment at your funeral. Either way, IEBC commissioners seemingly endure a political jinx even after serving faithfully.

Ahmed Issack, the first IEBC chair, was lucky. After heading the interim independent electoral commission (IIEC), whose task was to midwife the 2010 Constitution, he was confirmed as substantive chair to the newly established IEBC. Still, he was destined to oversee only the 2013 General election. When the 2017 elections neared, he became ugly to the masters, and he had to go. Together with the first CEO James Oswago. Theirs was not a happy ending at the commission.

In 2017, Chebukati came in as the chair and Ezra Chiloba as the CEO. They had a difficult time toward the 2017 elections, and after the poll.  Commissioner Roselyn Akombe was first to leave only to oversee matters elections on Twitter. Chiloba couldn’t pull through the political measles age, so he was pushed out shortly after.

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The bug has been catching up with the other IEBC commissioners. Although commissioners Abdi Yakub Guliye and Boya Molu are still holding on, not long ago, three commissioners; Paul Kurgat, Connie Nkatha Maina and Margaret Mwachanya, disembarked from the storm-hit IEBC ship in a huff. In their presser, the three faulted Chebukati's ability to 'steer the ship in difficult times and give direction when needed.

Two days ago, the seven-member selection panel appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in and is ready to fill the four vacant commissioner positions. It can’t escape notice that the IEBC commissioners are appointed by the top-most politician (President) and okayed by the top political body (Parliament). That way, the independent body lives largely as a servant of politics.

Back to Chebukati. His goose is getting cooked. After the appointment of the four commissioners, the political chessboard and history tells me that the guns will be trained on Chebukati and the remaining commissioners, unless a miracle happens. But miracles have been in very short supply lately.

Dr Ndonye is a Political Economist of Communication.


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