Ghosts of IEBC split continue to haunt ex-chair and ex-commissioners

Former IEBC CEO Ruth Kulundu. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The ghosts of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) split have continued to haunt its former chair Wafula Chebukati and six commissioners even after their exit.

 This is after Employment and Labour Relations Court declined to expunge their names from a case filed by the IEBC deputy CEO Ruth Kulundu.

The application was filed by IEBC chief executive Hussein Marjan. He asked the court to remove Chebukati, Boya Molu, Abdi Guliye, Juliana Cherera, Francis Wanderi, Justus Nyang’aya, and Irene Masit from the case as they could allegedly not be sued personally.

He also stated their exit from office as a reason why they were no longer needed in the case.

 However, Justice Linette Ndolo said that Kulundu’s case was complex and if she removed any of the commissioner’s crucial information about what was happening at the electoral body will be missed out.

“I think however that the dispute before me is not simply one of assigning blame to members of the Commission. This is a complex matter involving a split commission with members appearing to issue conflicting instructions to members of staff, including the petitioner,” said Justice Ndolo.

From the ruling, it appears that the split continued even after the commissioners left.

On one hand, Cherera swore an affidavit on behalf of herself, Nyang’aya, and Masit distancing themselves from Kulundu’s suspension.

She stated that the case was based on personal actions against the ex-chairman of all commissioners.

On the other hand, Kulundi stated that IEBC and its CEO were seeking to prosecute the case on behalf of Chebukati, Molu, and Guliye in their absence.

In the case, IEBC CEO had asked the court to expunge the six names. However, the judge said, this would in the end eliminate all the details of the split in the commission.

 In her case, Kulundu argued that she was issued a sack letter by three out of seven commissioners. According to her, the commission ought to have seven commissioners, however, only three were involved in the process.

According to her, the three commissioners who she does not name were unhappy that she attended a meeting held by the four dissenting commissioners.

 Her lawyer Hosea Manwa told the court she was being hounded out of the commission for attending a meeting held by then IEBC’s vice chair Cherera, Wanderi, Masit, and Justus Abonyo.

Manwa asserted that the commission’s decisions cannot be ratified by the minority.

“The first respondent (IEBC) has acted in excesses of his powers to purport to interdict the Applicant from her Employment without the approval of a  majority of the Commissioners, which actions are in excess of his legal mandate. Further, the 1st Respondent continues to act in a manner that completely flouts the provisions of the law on the rights of the applicant and continues to breach her rights to fair labour practices,” argued Manwa.

The court heard that Kulundu was employed by the IEBC in 2009 as a  Regional Election Co-coordinator (REC) in charge of the Nairobi region which then, comprised of Nairobi and Kajiado Counties.

 During that period, her lawyer told the court, she created 17  constituency offices in Nairobi, Five(5) in  Kajiado, and a regional office at Nyayo House in Nairobi.

She was then transferred to the Lower Eastern region in 2012 and then came back to Nairobi in 2015. Again, she was transferred to Nyanza in 2017.

She narrated that on August 26, 2022, she attended a special plenary meeting held by the four commissioners. In the meeting, she said, Marjan was absent. According to her, the meeting was scheduled for the August 25 last year and she had received an invitation letter.

Kulundu told the court that whenever Marjan was absent, she was required to take minutes of the meeting. This, she said, had happened several times when he was absent.

According to her, she did not sign the minutes as she was waiting for his approval.

 Her court documents read that following the meeting, Marjan issued a show-cause letter to her in which she was accused of misconduct.

The allegations were that she arranged for the commission’s meeting without Marjan’s approval. She was also accused of issuing threats and intimidating staff members.

“The petitioner responded to this Notice to show cause vide her letter dated September 9, 2022, in which she denied all the allegations and claimed that they were inaccurate and misleading. In her response, the Petitioner indicated that the meeting for which she was being accused of arranging,  was in fact called for by the 7th to 10th respondents ( Cherera and Masit) herein,” she said.