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Cherera Four lay bare threats, polls fiasco

 Former IEBC Vice Chairperson Juliana Cherera(C) speaks on August 16, 2022, over controversial presidential results. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Bomas of Kenya was yesterday turned into a battlefield by former electoral agency commissioners who presided over the August 2022 General Election as they traded accusations over alleged electoral fraud and death threats which resulted in exiles.

In a dramatic turn of events, four former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioners, popularly known as the Cherera Four, bared their hearts, some from exile while their former boss, Wafula Chebukati refused to make presentations before the National Dialogue Committee.

The venue of the national dialogue is symbolic as it was the theatre which marked the final fall of the IEBC commissioners after they differed on how to tally the presidential results and who between President William Ruto and his main challenger, Raila Odinga, had won.

On Thursday, former IEBC commissioner Justus Nyang'aya and Francis Wanderi appeared in person before the committee while Juliana Cherera and Irene Masit participated virtually due to security concerns that had forced them to flee the country.

The emotionally charged meeting took an unsettling turn as Masit talked of threats that saw her ultimately flee the country following a disturbing encounter with unidentified individuals at her residence.

She described the intense social ostracism she faced within her own ethnic community, branding her a "betrayer" for refusing to accept the presidential election results.

"I am called a betrayer, traitor. They say a betrayer is worse than a murderer. That's what they call me nowadays... I am suffering here," said Masit, her voice quivering with emotion.

Cherera echoed these sentiments, revealing the immense pressure that she and her family had been subjected to due to her stance. She emphatically maintained their rejection of the presidential election results, which they had witnessed and flagged for concerns.

“It was bad for me and my family. We have been threatened just because we spoke about what we saw. Even today we stand by our word, we disown the presidential election results,” she said.

The Cherera Four emphasised that the tallying and tabulation of presidential election results was a shared responsibility between the commissioners and the chairperson, who was exclusively entrusted with declaring the results. However, they maintained that Chebukati, side-lined them, giving them peripheral roles that denied them their core mandates.

“The chairperson unilaterally took the decision to deny the country the benefits of a running tally based on tabulated results,” said Nyang’aya

“The effects of the violations, wasteful omissions, uncouth decision by the chairman ensured that the investment in the Kenya Integrated Election Management System (Kiems) was not used to achieve the objectives of transparency and accountability of presidential elections,” he added.

Their concerns extended to the tabulation of results from constituencies. Notably, they pointed out that results from form 34C, a document containing comprehensive results from all constituencies, was never been submitted to them.

"What we got from the CEO through the chairman and the commissioners is a three- or four-page summary of all the 47 counties. As we sit, we have never seen form 34C which is the presidential results form," said Wanderi.

They contended that their removal from office had been triggered by their inquiries into the process used by the chairperson to declare results, claiming that the results had been tallied by a select group closely associated with Chebukati.

“The Cherera Four were forced to resign. It was never our intention to resign. The reason we were removed from office is because we questioned the process the chairman used to declare the results. We never tallied the results from the constituencies and they were tallied by a handpicked number of people who worked with the chairman,” said Wanderi.

The former IEBC chairman skipped the session opting instead to communicate through a strongly-worded letter signed by himself and former commissioners Prof Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu, dated September 27th.

Chebukati explained that the decision was his conviction that the matters currently under consideration by the National Dialogue Committee either fell under the jurisdiction of other pertinent agencies or had already been satisfactorily addressed through established legal channels.

The former IEBC chair emphasised that the Supreme Court had issued a definitive ruling regarding the presidential poll, and he expressed his reluctance to partake in a process that might undermine the nation's Constitution and its vital institutions.

“It is neither our wish nor our desire to participate in a process whose outcome would be to sully the Constitution and some of its organs,” read the letter.

The Cherera Four commissioners proposed a series of far-reaching electoral reforms. They called for the immediate appointment of new commissioners and the establishment of an interim commission, representing both political factions.

They called for more explicit delineation of roles, responsibilities, and accountability mechanisms for commissioners and increased parliamentary oversight through a Joint Bi-Partisan Committee.

They advocated for a governance structure akin to Ghana's model, in which the chairperson functions as the chief executive. This approach would clarify the roles of commissioners, ensure the security of their tenure, and establish clear definitions of their functions. Additionally, they recommended the creation of a Mediation Committee to resolve disputes among commissioners.

Meanwhile, former Attorney General Githu Muigai called for reduction of counties and constituencies, reinstating the Senate as the upper House, and designating the National Assembly as the lower House. Muigai emphasised that the IEBC chairperson did not necessarily need to be a lawyer but should possess managerial skills.

Prof Muigai advocated for a non-partisan selection panel to appoint commissioners, excluding politicians. This proposition contrasted with the Cherera Four's recommendation of nominations from both political sides, with the chairperson nominated by the Judicial Service Commission.

He also proposed stringent laws to curb party-hopping, a suggestion endorsed by Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu.

The former AG opposed plans to anchor the National Government Constituencies Development Fund (NG-CDF), the Senate Fund, and the Affirmative Action Fund in the Constitution, arguing that the funds lacked constitutional justification.

“In a democracy such as ours, those who have the resources like Members of Parliament must be taxed more so that we can provide for the community,” said Githu.

Amnesty International Kenya's Executive Director Irungu Houghton highlighted critical issues of police brutality.

"We suggest that the Inspector General of Police commits not to shield his officers from legal processes that will have the officers responsible for the violence taken to court." 

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