Process to recruit four IEBC commissioners to start on Thursday

From left: Exiting IEBC Commissioners Consolata Nkatha, Margaret Wanyala and former commissioner Dr Roselyne Kwamboka at the Supreme Court, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The process to recruit four commissioners to the national electoral agency, 15 months to the General Election, will commence on Thursday.

This is after President Uhuru Kenyatta officially declared vacancies of four commissioners to the Independence Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), who resigned following the disputed 2017 presidential elections, which saw the Supreme Court nullify the August 8 poll results.

In a gazette notice dated April 14, the President has effectively kick-started the tedious recruitment process of replacing the commissioners. However, this exercise is preceded by the appointment of a seven-member selection panel as stipulated in the IEBC Act, 2020.

“I declare vacancies in the positions of four members of the IEBC,” said the President, which is in accordance with Section 7A (2) IEBC Act 2011.

The selection panel as per the IEBC Act of 2020 shall consist of two men and two women nominated by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) chaired by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi. It will also have one person nominated by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and two persons nominated by the inter-religious council of Kenya.

“A person is qualified for appointment as a member of the section panel if he/she is a Kenyan, meets the requirements of leadership and integrity Act, set out in Chapter Six of the Constitution and holds a degree from a university recognised in Kenya,” reads the Act.

Further, it states; “The respective nominating bodies shall within seven days of the declaration of a vacancy in the office of the chairperson or member of the commission, submit the names of their nominee to the PSC for transmission to the President for appointment.”

Operation challenges

As presently constituted following the exit of ex-commissioners, vice-chairperson Consolata Nkatha, Margaret Mwachanya, Paul Kurgat and Roselyne Akombe, the commission has faced operation challenges as a result of quorum hitches.

IEBC has been operating with three commissioners since 2018 after the last batch of commissioners – Nkatha, Mwachanya and Kurgat – jointly quit the electoral body.

Akombe had resigned in 2017, while on her way to Dubai to supervise the shipping of ballot papers for the repeat elections, which were held on October 26, claiming her life was in danger.

The three current commissioners are Chair Wafula Chebukati and commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Mulu.

After months of waiting to kick off the exercise, following the passage and enactment of an Act by the President in October 2020, the Saturday Standard, has reliably learnt that the decision by Chebukati to challenge the legality of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which proposes the creation of 70 new constitution as usurping its powers, could have pushed the proponents to replace the former commissioners.

“The chairman has been very firm on the constitution issue. He insists that it is the role of IEBC as provided for in Article 89 of the Constitution. The recruitment process will ensure that by the time of the referendum, we will have the four commissioners in office,” said a legislator privy to the happenings. It will be very easy to sort out this matter as the four will constitute quorum.”

According to the gazzate notice, by Wednesday 21st, the President will be in receipt of the seven names submitted to him by the Speaker for formal appointment.

Senate Minority Leader Mutula Kilonzo Jnr, who also sits in Senate’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC), told the Saturday Standard said once the selection panel is constituted, the recruitment process will commence.

“The panel could take at least 60 or more days to conduct the interviews before the names are forwarded to the president for onward nomination to Parliament,” said Kilonzo Jnr.

Another JLAC member, senator Samson Cherargei (Nandi) said before the amendment to the IEBC law, there was no clear cut on the recruitment process of the composition of the selection panel.

“This was long overdue because the Johann Kriegler commission report on election affairs had proposed that at least 24 months, the IEBC/commissioners should be in place for the adequate preparation of the electoral process,” said senator Cherargei.

“The referendum process now is no longer practical because the recruitment process must be over.”

The move to fully constitute the electoral agency has been seen in some quarters as aimed to stem dissent against the 70 constituencies proposed by the constitution of Kenya (Amendment)Bill, 2020 spearheaded by Kenyatta and ODM’s Raila Odinga.