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Why does ODM have a knack for kicking out the electoral team?

By Roselyne Obala and Brian Otieno | August 15th 2021

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati with his Commissioners Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye before meeting the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee at Parliament.[Boniface Okendo,Standard]

History has a strange knack for repeating itself, and it may if the push by some ODM lawmakers to have the electoral agency overhauled succeeds.

On their blacklist are beleaguered Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati and commissioners Boya Mulu and Abdi Guliye, who have survived torrents that swept away four of their colleagues in the wake of the disputed 2017 presidential election.

At the funeral of the father to lawmakers Moses and TJ Kajwang’ on Friday, some ODM leaders vowed to kick out Chebukati and the two commissioners.

The plan is reportedly to take shape once President Uhuru Kenyatta’s four nominees to the commission are approved by Parliament and sworn in. The nominees are Justus Abonyo, Irene Cherop Masit, Juliana Cherera and Francis Wanderi who are poised to replace ex-commissioners Paul Kurgat, Margaret Mwachanya, Consolata Maina Nkatha and Roselyne Akombe.

The renewed push comes a year before the next General Election. And it is not the first time IEBC is facing a similar push.

In 2016, a year to the 2017 polls, ODM was at the centre of the plot to kick out the Issack Hassan-chaired IEBC by the opposition, breathing heavily on the electoral agency’s neck until they eventually gave in.

Through year-long demonstrations christened ‘machozi Monday’, Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) and other partners camped outside IEBC’s offices every Monday, a mission aimed at rallying the public against Hassan’s commission.

They accused the commission of rigging the 2013 presidential election, insisting they did not trust it to conduct a second general election.

Similarly, Uhuru’s nullified 2017 victory left the Opposition uneasy about having Chebukati oversee the 2022 contest. They have sustained calls to send the IEBC boss packing over the last five years, even though such calls have been muffled by other matters such as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

Since 2007, different commissions have overseen the respective elections. If successful, ODM will keep alive the history that began with resignation of Samuel Kivuitu’s Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK).

Chebukati’s team was sworn in in February 2017, six months to the elections, against a recommendation by Justice Johann Kriegler’s commission of inquiry that aimed to have IEBC fully constituted two years to polls.

The plot by ODM has already ignited mixed reactions from across the political divide. ODM Chairman John Mbadi said Chebukati and team’s exit was the party’s position.

“They should stop everything they are doing if we are to have credible elections in 2022. It is about the trust and confidence of the public in the electoral process,” said the National Assembly minority leader.

“We know they are assigning various staff duties. What is the hurry? Someone started the usual mischief. They even delayed in submitting the Election Campaign Financing Regulations and now want to rush things,” he added, saying ODM would not relent in its quest.

A section of MPs allied to Deputy President William Ruto have however vowed to oppose any move to destabilise the commission just 12 months to the next elections.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale faulted the ODM brigade for always scheming to kick out commissioners because they want those favourable to them.

“Political parties and the institutions charged with election matters, including the police, must ensure we comply with the Johann Kriegler commission report after the 2007/08 post-election violence requiring the IEBC to be properly constituted 24 months to the polls,” said Duale.

“ODM should stop the culture of calling for replacement of the IEBC commissioners as has been the case in the last two elections.”

He said removal of commissioners is clearly provided for in the Constitution.

“They should petition Parliament with sound grounds and even though they have control of the Justice and Legal Affairs committees of both Houses due to the fruits of the Handshake between the president and Raila, we will not heed,” he said.

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro said he was not surprised that ODM is calling for Chebukati’s removal.

“Raila is the only person with a problem with the IEBC. He can remove Chebukati and have his family and friends in the commission. We are not interested in who is counting the vote. We are more interested in who is casting them,” said Nyoro. 

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