Details of how selection panel settled on new IEBC team

Selection panel for Independent electoral and boundaries commission(IEBC) led by Chairperson Bernadette Musundi(R) and her Vice Abdulghafur El-Busaidy addresses a press conference at County Hall, Nairobi on Friday 25/11/16.PHOTO:BONIFACE OKENDO

Details have emerged on the intrigues that played out in the interviewing and final shortlisting of 11 names from whom the President will, by law, pick the chairman and six commissioners to replace the outgoing team led Issack Hassan.

It also emerged that because of constitutional provisions to ensure regional balance in public bodies, the President may most likely pick lawyer Tukero ole Kina to be the chairperson of the electoral body and not the only other nominee, Wafula Chebukati.

This is because the second nominee comes from the same county and community as the Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Ezra Chiloba.

If Chebukati is picked, then it may mean that Chiloba would have to be somehow quietly removed to ensure the IEBC leadership reflects the face of Kenya through regional balance in power distribution.

The President received the list of the two nominees for chairperson and nine for the commission members on December 21 and given that the Constitution gives him seven days, excluding public holidays, to pick one for the top job and six as commissioners, he is expected to name the new team latest on January 1, 2017.

The other top contenders for the chairperson position, whose holder will oversee the 2017 elections, were former Mombasa mayor and well-connected lawyer Taib Ali Taib Bajabir, former member of the Judiciary Service Commission Florence Muoti Mwangangi and lawyer Lucas Leperes Naikuni.

According to sources familiar with the considerations the selection panel took and the ratings each interviewee got, Mr Taib was reportedly knocked out because of doubts about his independence and standing raised by members of the public whose input was required because of the constitutional demand for public participation.

Taib's bid was also reportedly undermined by fears among some of the panelists that his strong political connections with a top Jubilee politician may not allow him the independence required of the sensitive position of election competition arbiter.

Information Technology guru Zephania Okeyo Auro topped the list of those who were interviewed for the commissioners' list followed by Roselyne Kwamboka Akombe, an aide to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Coming third was Abdi Yakub Guliye from Egerton University followed by Henry Kizito Okelo Nyongesa, also an IT expert.

Fifth was Samuel Kimeu from Transparency International followed by Paul Kibiwott Kurgat, recently replaced as Kenya's ambassador to Moscow. Kurgat will be counting on the fact that he is the only interviewee to make it to the final list from the Rift Valley because regional balance is a key criteria the President is obliged by law to ensure.

Coming seventh was Boya Molu who previously worked with the Judiciary. Consolata Nkatha Bucha Maina and Margaret Mwanchanya tied in eighth position. Given the two-thirds gender rule, at least two of the seven appointees must be women.

The panel chaired by Bernadette Musundi was also said to have frowned on the claims made against Ms Mwangangi by the International Policy Group, chaired by Kenneth Otieno, that she pocketed millions of shillings through suspect claims for allowances while a member of the JSC. The group drew the attention of the panel to the fact that the Parliamentary Accounts Committee had recommended that she, together with all the other JSC members then, should be surcharged.

The IEBC selection panel received petitions challenging the hiring of the candidates on grounds of alleged unethical conduct.

"My conscience is very clear. I am a person of integrity. I have never been paid or even have an iota of being paid for a sitting I did not attend," Mwangangi told panel in self-defence during her interview.

"I have not even at one time been called by Parliament or investigative agencies, including the EACC, to answer to such financial queries in the JSC."


However, no integrity issues were raised by way of petition to the panel on Kina, Wafula and Naikuni. But it is reported that some of the panelists were concerned by the behind-the-scenes lobbying for Naikuni by another top Jubilee politician, and like in the case of Taib, doubt was cast on his independence if picked.

In terms of performance during the interview, Naikuni did well but Kina was ranked the highest with 13 percentage points ahead of Wafula. The panel was reportedly impressed by Kina's professional standing and absence of evidence of political engagement either with Jubilee or the Opposition.

The panel was composed of lawyers Evans Monari and Mary Karen Kigen for Jubilee while former judge Tom Mbaluto and Ogla Chepkemboi Karani represented the interests of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy.

There were also five other politically-neutral members, mainly from the clergy, who were appointed following the Jubilee-CORD deal to end street protests against the Hassan team.

They were Peter Karanja, the general secretary of National Council of Churches of Kenya, Abdulghafur El Busaidy (Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims), David Oginde (Evangelical Alliance of Kenya Bishops), Mohan Lumba, a medical doctor who doubles up as vice chairman of the Hindu Council of Kenya, and Ms Musundi from the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops.