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Parliamentary team gives Speaker ultimatum on parallel IEBC probe

By Fred Makana | July 16th 2016
FROM LEFT: Parliamentary joint select committee members Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, co-chairs Kiraitu Murungi, James Orengo and Kipchumba Murkomen after a sitting at Safari Park Hotel, in Nairobi yesterday. [PHOTO: BEVERLYNE MUSILI/ STANDARD]

The parliamentary joint select committee probing suitability of electoral commissioners to conduct the next elections has given Speaker Justin Muturi until Monday to stop the parallel work being carried out by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC).

Co-chair James Orengo said the Speaker must stop the work of the JLAC committee led by Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkonga to allow the joint committee continue with talks.

“We must have assurances regarding the two parallel processes especially when JLAC is duplicating and undermining the mandate of this committee,” Mr Orengo said.

“This is a negotiated committee that overrides any other committee or body because this is the only legal and legitimate body to deliver legal and institutional framework on IEBC reforms,” he added.

The joint committee members were unanimous that JLAC was largely overlapping their mandate to prescribe a legal and institutional framework to guarantee free, fair and credible elections next year.

Going by the latest developments, a stand-off looms in Parliament as the two House teams tussle over parallel investigations into the electoral commission.

The bi-partisan select committee on IEBC draws membership from the National Assembly and the Senate.

Speaking at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi during a one day retreat to unlock the deadlock surrounding the two committees, CORD co-principal and Senate minority leader Moses Wetang’ula said the joint select committee was a product of high level consultations between Jubilee and CORD leaderships and its proceedings must be respected and given latitude without any interference.

“It is apparently clear Chepkonga team must not compel us into taking extraordinary actions which aren’t necessary and which will render nugatory the mandate of this committee. We have resolved to chart the way forward by tackling issues surrounding the IEBC’s credibility in handling the next general elections,” Mr Wetang’ula said.

Unfettered opportunity

“Already we have communicated with the ruling coalition that all the other processes that had started or were to start in relation to IEBC reforms should be stopped so that this committee would be given unfettered opportunity to deliver on its mandate,” he added.

Senator Wetang'ula said the committee’s mandate is weighty and meant to shed light on the fate of IEBC and give Kenyans hope, confidence and trust that the 2017 polls will be conducted in a free, fair and democratic environment.

“This committee has the mandate to hear and listen to all stakeholders who will air their views during its sittings. That is why we are saying the Chepkonga team must not belittle or pour scorn on the mandate of this committee,” he said.

Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi, who is also a joint committee co-chair said: “The 2007 post-election violence taught us a lesson and bearing that in mind we must work on the electoral laws that can guarantee a level playing ground for everyone, to ensure the country does not slide back to anarchy because of election competition.”

He asked the CORD and Jubilee teams to work together and end this process together because “I will not be part of a system which negotiates in bad faith.”

Kiraitu said street protests are not a solution to IEBC reforms adding that is why the law makers opted to form the joint committee.

“Our country should not go back to the chaos we witnessed during the 2007 post-election violence. We want a process that is all-inclusive that will see IEBC conduct free and fair elections in which those who win and those who lose will accept the results,” he said.

Kiraitu urged the Chepkonga led committee to be disbanded adding that the joint committee should be given time and support other than engaging in side shows with the justice and legal affairs committee.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria echoed Kiraitu’s sentiments adding that the committee members should put aside their political differences in a bid to arrive at a just solution on the fate of IEBC.

Taveta MP Naomi Shabaan was also of the opinion that the joint select committee should be given ample time to complete its obligations and cautioned against MPs who are making careless statements on the committee’s role.

“We want a referee who can ensure the elections are conducted in an open manner devoid of any complains. We urge that the Chepkonga-led committee be disbanded so as to give room for meaningful discussions by the joint select committee,” Shabaan said.

Senate deputy majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen and his National Assembly counterpart Dr Shabaan said the ruling coalition has not sanctioned the JLAC team saying statements made by Chepkonga with the effect that the joint committee was formed “to get people out of the streets” were personal statements.

Resolve the issue

“We want to see goodwill coming from both sides. Our MPs must desist from making careless statements or misbehaving. We are all MPs and we must work together to bring an acceptable product. We want to ask Chepkonga to be fair and allow this committee to deliver on its mandate,” Shabaan said.

Mr Kiraitu said although his committee was keen to resolve the issue, his team was ready to proceed with its work in line with the mandate given to it by Parliament.

“This is a joint committee of Parliament and the matter of IEBC is very important. We are here because there is a feeling that there cannot be free and fair elections under the current circumstances. There has been concern over the role of the IEBC but we are working to resolve the matter. We will be talking with all the authorities concerned to ensure we take the process forward. We will not rest until we have delivered on our mandate,” said Kiraitu.

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