Wrangles mar selection of panel to hire IEBC team

LSK Chief Executive Officer Mercy Wambua and society’s president, Nelson Havi (right), forwarded parallel letters. [Wiberforce Okwiri and Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Leadership wrangles in the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) now threaten to forestall recruitment of the selection panel to spearhead hiring of four commissioners to the electoral body.

The society’s president, Nelson Havi, and Chief Executive Officer Mercy Wambua forwarded parallel letters with different names to the Parliamentary Service commission (PSC) for onward transmission to President Uhuru Kenyatta for appointment.

At the troubled society, Mr Havi is set to move to court to challenge a decision by the PSC chaired by Speaker Justin Muturi to pick the CEO’s nominee.

The LSK is among three parties as per the IEBC Act 2021, mandated to nominate one person to join six others to sit in the panel that will fill the vacant positions of four commissioners at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

But it is not only the LSK having issues with the process. Some MPs have questioned the criteria used by the Muturi-led team to settle on four nominees of the 12 names submitted by the parliamentary leadership.

Also at a crossroads are the inter-religious group’s two nominees where some factions claim they were not consulted in coming up with the names.

Muturi confirmed getting the seven names, which will be presented to the president early next week for appointment but said he was not at liberty to make them public at the moment.

At LSK, an eight-member splinter group, led by Wambua, has presented the name of lawyer Dorothy Jemator, while Havi nominated Morris Kimuli.

Law Society of Kenya (LSK) CEO Mercy Wambua during a press conference at LSK offices in Nairobi on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Havi however vowed to move to court against the PSC should it forward Jemator’s name to the president, arguing that the LSK had settled on Kimuli.

Through a letter addressed to the secretary of PSC and Clerk of the Senate, Jeremiah Nyegenye, Havi warned that adoption of Jemator’s name would have legal consequences and accused Wambua of countermanding LSK’s nomination of Kimuli.

Wambua had termed Havi’s actions of nominating Kimuli as “dubious, illegal and dead on arrival”, saying it had violated LSK’s 2020 regulations.

“…Please confirm that the name of Kimuli Morris will be transmitted to the President and that the Parliamentary Service commission will not be complicit in the nefarious scheme by Ms Dorothy Jemator, Mercy Wambua and their Principals. The Law Society of Kenya will take legal action to challenge any act by the commission inconsistent with the position set out herein,” reads Havi’s letter to the PSC dated April 22.

The LSK president said Jemator was ineligible to serve as a member of the panel, seeing that she already serves in two tribunals.

He said aside from serving as a judicial officer, the lawyer serves in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) steering committee and is a member of Jubilee Party’s disciplinary tribunal.

He said Jemator had also been appointed to the HIV/Aids tribunal on May 23, 2019, and the Energy and Petroleum Tribunal on March 3, 2020, thus her position in the Judiciary “precludes her from representing the society n the panel on account of the provisions of Articles 10 and chapter six of the constitution”.

Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Nelson Havi addressing a press conference on the recruitment of Chief Justice David Maraga's successor. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The selection panel, as per the IEBC Act of 2020, shall consist of two men and two women nominated by the PSC. It will also have one person nominated by the LSK and two persons nominated by the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK).

The IRCK has picked its chairman, Rev Fr Joseph Mutie, and Abdallah Fariduun of the Shia sect of Islam to represent it in the panel.

Vacancies in the IEBC arose after four commissioners, Roselyne Akombe, Margaret Mwachanya, Paul Kurgat and Consolata Nkatha resigned unceremoniously after the 2017 elections.

According to the IEBC (Amendment) Act 2019, institutions with slots at the selection panel are required to submit names to the PSC within seven days of declaration of vacancies.

 Given that President Kenyatta declared the vacancies on April 14, it means that the institutions -namely Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) chaired by National Assembly Speaker, the LSK and the inter-religious council of Kenya - had until Wednesday to have nominated members of the selection panel, pending submission of the names to the President.

“A person is qualified for appointment as a member of the section panel if he/she is a Kenyan, meets the requirements of leadership and integrity Act, set out in Chapter Six of the Constitution and holds a degree from a university recognized in Kenya,” reads the Act.

It further states; “The respective nominating bodies shall within seven days of the declaration of a vacancy in the office of the chairperson or member of the commission, submit the names of their nominee to the PSC for transmission to the President for appointment.”

IEBC Chair Chebukati Wafula addressing the media on the procurement of the Integrated Elections Management System. With him are Connie Maina (second right), Ambassador Paul Kurgat(right), and Dr. Roselyne Akombe at Anniversary Towers on March 24, 2017. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Consequently, the President will then within seven days appoint and gazette the names of the members of the selection panel.

Moreover, the selection panel shall, within seven days of its appointment, invite applications from qualified persons and publish the names of all applicants and their qualifications in the Gazette, two newspapers with national circulation and on the Parliamentary Service Commission website.

The selection panel shall consider the applications, shortlist and interview the applicants. The PSC will provide technical support for the panel.

Notable is the fact that IEBC has been operating with three commissioners since 2018 namely chairperson Wafula Chebukati and members Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye.