IEBC deputy CEO on the radar as crackdown commences

IEBC Commissioners led by their chair Wafula Chebukati address issues raised by aspirants from areas where elections were not carried out because of certain technicalities at Bomas of Kenya on August 22,2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Crackdown of senior electoral commission staff who facilitated or aided the operations of the four commissioners who disputed the presidential election declaration has commenced in earnest.

Ruth Kulundu, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) deputy CEO in charge of Operations had until last evening to respond to a “show cause” notice issued to her over alleged “incorrigible demeanor and outright misconduct in the past weeks.”

The show cause letter was delivered to her on Monday, August 29 by her boss, CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan. At the time, the Supreme Court had not issued its final decision on the presidential election petition challenging the Commission's declaration of William Ruto as the winner.

Marjan accused her of among other things, convening a commission plenary meeting on August 26th without his approval or delegation.

Insiders say it is during this particular plenary meeting that was attended by the four commissioners who had opposed their chairman Wafula Chebukati’s official declaration of the presidential election at Bomas the week before.

This would later play out at the Supreme Court hearings when a different set of lawyers- Paul Muite and Issah Mansur- instructed by "the plenary" turned up at the Court to represent the four. Prof Githu Muigai who was representing the Chairman objected saying no public procurement had been undertaken to recruit them.

The Court saved the Commission the embarrassment when it washed its hand off the matter. The Court said both factions are allowed to participate since it could not choose lawyers for an independent commission.

Through Kulundu's facilitation, it is implied in the show cause letter, the commissioners purported to make decisions on behalf of the commission, relating to its position on the Supreme Court proceedings which were then ongoing.

“You impersonated the CEO and usurped his resposnibilities as you purported to perform his duties without his authority or delegation. Moreover, Plenary Meeting No. 279 had already been held thus voiding the ‘other’ meeting of August 26 where you were secretary, rendering it illegal,” the charge states.

In the letter, Marjan informs his deputy that the IEBC Act is clear that the CEO “shall be the secretary at all meetings of the Commission.” He said this amounted to insubordination and a serious breach of her employment contract.

In the second charge, Marjan accuses his deputy of threatening and intimidating junior staff. In particular, he accuses her of “attacking, insulting and threatening” acting director of voter registration and operations Moses Sunkuli and in effect “arousing in him a sense of fear and insecurity in his life.”

Sunkuli is the Commission officer who swore an affidavit to the Supreme Court on matters touching on verification, collation, tallying and declaration of results. He testified in opposition to the petition and in support of Chebukati’s position as against the other four commissioners.

“It is a gross misconduct to use threats and intimidation or behave in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace as stipulated under Commission Human Resource and Administration Policies and Procedures Manual,” the letter said.

Marjan warned her the two charges are very serious and warrant “very severe disciplinary action including dismissal from the service of the Commission if found culpable.” He also informed her that the commission was contemplating taking appropriate disciplinary action hence why it was offering her the chance to explain herself.

In its decision last week, the Supreme Court upheld Chebukati’s declaration of Ruto as the winner of the presidential election and dismissed as “hot air” evidence adduced by the petitioners.

The Court complained of the unexpected drama visited on Kenyans by a divided Commission, pointing out what it described as a “serious malaise” eating the Commission.

The Court talked of “last minute boardroom rapture,” “quorum antics” and said it will say more of the Commission in their full judgment expected towards the end of this month.

“How can we upset an election in which people have participated without hindrance to this drama and expose the will of the people to quorum antics of IEBC? This we cannot do!” they posed.

President-elect Ruto's team is on record describing as an "attempted coup" the events of August 15 when the four commissioners walked out on their chairman as he was about to announce the results. Violence also broke out at the national tallying centre leading to the injury of commission staff, including Marjan.

Commission insiders say riding on the Supreme Court decision, Chebukati will formally be pitching for a proper inquiry into the events of the day.