Wafula Chebukati was vilified and wrongfully subjected to public scrutiny, lawyer Karori tells court

IEBC Lawyer Kamau Karori at the Supreme court during the presidential petition hearing. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairperson Wafula Chebukati was vilified and publicly criticised for conducting an open election, the Supreme Court heard on Thursday.

IEBC lawyer Kamau Karori, in his submission, argued that the petitioners set out to make Chebukati the villain in the August 9, 2022, General Election, whilst he was just discharging his duties as per the Constitution.

 “This is the first time that I hear a person being criticised for being too open. IEBC is now being vilified for being too transparent in uploading the forms 34A on the public portal,” Karori argued.

He also critiqued the petitioners' claim that the commission’s chairperson “styled” himself as the returning officer for the presidential election, and that no such position existed.

Karori cited the case of Raila Odinga vs IEBC in 2017, where the Supreme court ruled that the chairperson of the commission undertakes the role of declaring presidential results.

“The claim by the petitioners is wrong. That is not the correct position. The chairperson undertakes the role of declaring results, which is a role reserved for a returning officer as per the IEBC Act. It shows you the levels at which the chairman has been vilified as far as his functions are concerned,” Karori submitted.

He further argued that the petitioners’ submission that the chairperson [Chebukati] undertook activities on behalf of the commissioners was incorrect.

Karori told the apex court that the petitioners set out to misunderstand the nature and character of the commission and the interplay between the functions of the commission and those cast upon the chairperson.

“It is actually the other way around. It is the commission’s employees who undertake the verification process on behalf of the chairman to enable him declare the outcome of the results.”

On the issue of illegalities and irregularities on forms 34A, the IEBC lawyer argued that the process was transparent from the voting, tallying, verification, and declaration of results, an exercise he says was conducted before all party agents.

“This court has not received a single affidavit or evidence that the results pasted on the doors of every single polling station are different from those declared by the chairperson at the National Tallying Centre. Now you are being told that the commissioners need to be involved in the process of tallying and verifying the results…this introduces exactly what the court said we don’t want; human intervention or intermeddling in the chain of result declaration,” he told court.

Karori, holding brief for the commission, also pointed out how three IEBC commissioners were attacked and injured on live television on August 15 shortly before the presidential result declaration.

“Members of certain political parties decided that it was time to stop a process that had already started [declaration]. We all watched in horror on TV as members confronted and assaulted the chairperson and threw down the pulpit,” he said.

Thursday is Day Two of the presidential petition hearing at the Supreme Court. The respondents namely IEBC, Wafula Chebukati, William Ruto, and Rigathi Gachagua, and the four dissenting IEBC commissioners are giving their submissions.