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IEBC reveals why it quit CJ Koome’s polls team

NATIONAL
By Nanjinia Wamuswa and Brian Otieno | December 2nd 2021

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati during the 2022 election budget grilling in Mombasa [Robert Menza, Standard]

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati has accused the multi-agency forum on election preparedness of encroaching on their mandate.

Two days after the Chebukati defended his decision to pull out of the Multi-Sectoral Consultative Forum on Election Preparedness and Technical Working Committee for Election Preparedness, he appeared before lawmakers.

Speaking before Senate’s Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee (JLAHRC) yesterday, Chebukati said the committee’s Terms of Reference (ToRs) required IEBC to report its undertakings to it yet it is populated by State agencies.

He said the move would strip IEBC of its constitutionally-guarded mandate to conduct and oversee elections. Chebukati said his decision to exit the committee arose from a meeting of the forum on Tuesday last week, in which IEBC identified the would-be interference.

“They required us to report on issues that touch on our mandate to another agency. But we are working with the relevant agencies through other mechanisms,” he said, admitting that he had updated the committee during the meeting.

His response was seemingly forced out of him by fellow commissioner Irene Masit, who insisted the IEBC chairman tells the Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni-led committee if he had been issuing briefs to the taskforce.

Chebukati said IEBC would engage security stakeholders responsible for safeguarding elections and the Judiciary, among other agencies, through relevant channels, which he said are spelt out in law.

A meeting of the technical working committee aborted on Tuesday, hours after IEBC exited. Chebukati’s remarks come hot on the heels of protest by some politicians over the membership and mandate of the committee, which includes Chief Justice Martha Koome, who chairs it, and CS Fred Matiang’i (Interior) and Joe Mucheru of ICT. As they supported IEBC’s exit, allies of Deputy President William Ruto and his UDA party have opposed Koome’s presence in the committee citing conflict of interest.

During yesterday’s meeting with senators, IEBC commissioner Abdi Guliye said the agency had received financial support from the Treasury to carry out the second phase of the mass voter registration.

“The youth don’t seem eager to register as voters, some of whom told us it was because they don’t see any changes in their lives… but we hope to capture more voters, especially those who may have had got identification cards between now and when we open the second phase,” said Prof Guliye, adding that they would issue dates for the said round of voter registration.

IEBC had slated the second phase for January next year pending the necessary budgetary allocations.

“I don’t know whether you can convincingly tell Kenyans that you deployed enough gadgets across the polling stations to attract these young voters. The complaint we got is that you had three gadgets per ward and these voters didn’t have money to travel to your registration centres,” said Omogeni.

“We deployed three gadgets per ward because of the funding we had. But these gadgets were not in a fixed location. Youths didn’t need to walk far,” responded Prof Guliye.

On preparations for next year’s polls, commission CEO Majran Hussein Marjan said ballot papers would cost an average Sh22 and Sh23, down from Sh118 spent per ballot in 2017, also insisting that IEBC needed Sh40.9 billion to conduct the 2022 elections.

“The 2017 election cost us Sh36 billion. The Sh40.9 billion for next year’s election includes the cost of containing Covid-19 and the increased number of voters,” said Marjan.

Chebukati’s letter addressed to Interior PS Karanja Kibicho reads: “In the meantime, the commission will execute its primary role in planning and putting in place measures and mechanism to ensure simple, accurate, secure, accountable, impartial, efficient, credible and transparent election. However, in undertaking this constitutional mandate, the commission will continue to engage all relevant stakeholders in preparation and conduct of the upcoming polls.”

The same is copied to Koome, Director Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji, Mucheru, Treasury CS Ukur Yatani, National Intelligence Services boss Philip Kamweru, Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki, Solicitor General Kennedy Ogeto and Council of Governors chair governor Martin Wambora.

Also copied are PSs Julius Muia (Treasury), Jerome Ochieng (ICT), Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai, Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Ann Amadi, National Cohesion and Integration Commission chair Samuel Kobia, Registrar of Political parties Ann Nderitu and Communication Authority of Kenya Director General Ezra Chiloba.

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