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CJ Martha Koome swears in four IEBC officials

NATIONAL
By Paul Ogemba | September 3rd 2021

 

Chief Justice Martha Koome during an interview on her 100 days in office. [Photos, Zhakeem Akbar]

Four new commissioners with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission were sworn into office after an attempt to block them was dismissed.   

Justice Weldon Korir ruled that it will not serve any public interest to stop Juliana Cherera, Francis Mathenge Wanderi, Irene Cherop Masit, and Justus Abonyo Nyang’aya from assuming office at a time when the commission is in serious preparations for next year’s General Election.

“Any Kenyan knows that IEBC should be active in preparing for the next elections and it is in the public and country’s interest and security if it is properly constituted. Any further delay in stopping the commissioners from assuming office is not in the public interest,” ruled Korir.

According to the judge, the commission was currently in limbo following two verdicts from both the Court of Appeal and the High Court which could ground its operations if the commissioners did not assume office. As soon as the judge dismissed the application to stop the swearing-in, the four commissioners retreated to the Supreme Court where Chief Justice Martha Koome presided over their swearing-in.

The application to stop the four commissioners from assuming office was filed by Nornael Okello arguing that the selection panel did not consider the two-thirds gender principle when they settled on four male and two female to join the other three male commissioners. Through lawyer Kelly Malenya, the petitioner also sought to stop Ms Masit from being appointed on account that she had contested in the Jubilee Party primaries for the Elgeyo Marakwet woman rep position in 2017.

“If they are allowed to assume office, then IEBC will be composed of five male and two female commissioners which is contrary to the requirements for two-thirds gender balance,” said Malenya.

According to Malenya, the Constitution does not allow anyone who contested a political seat within the past five years to be an IEBC commissioner which knocked out Ms Masit from holding the office. But lawyer Sheriffsam Mwendwa for the IEBC selection panel and National Assembly argued that stopping the four would be prejudicial to the country in preparation for next year’s election and likely to cause a crisis.

Lawyer James Kounah representing Ms Masit denied claims that she participated in the 2017 election arguing that the petitioner misunderstood the concept of being a candidate in an election contest.

“It is true that she participated in the Jubilee Party nomination contest but she did not win and her name was not on the ballot. An election process starts only when a candidate has been nominated and her name is printed on the ballot by IEBC,” said Kounah.

He added that the issue of her being a candidate in the last election was already canvassed by the IEBC selection panel and the National Assembly committee on legal affairs which found that she did not participate in the last elections.

Lawyer Wilfred Mutubwa for the IEBC also opposed the application on grounds that the commission will suffer prejudice in its preparations for the next elections since there are key decisions that have to be made with the presence of all seven commissioners.

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