The season of long knives has started as UDA sets in motion the process to kick out four IEBC commissioners who disowned the declaration of President William Ruto as the winner in the just concluded elections.
The onslaught is likely to cripple the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, whose chairman, Wafula Chebukati and two commissioners, Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye, are supposed to proceed on terminal leave from October as their tenure ends early next year.
Nyandarua Senator John Methu has presented a petition in the Senate, marking the beginning of a formal process of removing the four dissenting commissioners from office for allegedly sabotaging the August 9 General Election.
Mr Methu filed the petition on Thursday. Those on the chopping board are IEBC Vice Chairperson Juliana Cherera and commissioners Francis Wanderi, Irene Masit and Justus Nyang’aya.
The four disowned the presidential election final tally announced by Chebukati, saying there was “opaqueness” surrounding it.
Methu said the actions of the four commissioners were illegal and meant to deny Kenyans their right to vote for leaders of their choice.
“Their actions were expressions of impunity and concerted efforts to subvert the sovereign will of the people through sabotage of the constitutional mandate of the commission to conduct free, fair, transparent and verifiable elections, which go against their official calling and the oaths of office they swore to undertake,” he says in the petition sent to the Senate clerk.
But Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni said the petition was a ploy by UDA to create a constitutional crisis in the country.
“IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, commissioners Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye are supposed to proceed on terminal leave on the 17th of this month. That means Cherera will remain in charge of IEBC, and UDA is not ready (for that),” Mr Kioni told the Saturday Standard on the phone.
He claimed the UDA leadership was victimising Cherera, Masit, Wanderi and Nyang’aya for refusing to be bribed, and doing their work competently. “Even in courts, they are using old cases to victimise our people. They have revived Amos Kimunya’s case, which was ruled on three years ago to victimise Azimio,” Kioni said.
He said the removal of the four IEBC commissioners was part of a wider scheme to erode gains made in the constitutional reforms.
“The people who want the commissioners out had a problem in defending their votes in court. We might lose our country soon,” he said.
Kioni said it was wrong for the government to penalise people for doing the right thing.
“We want Chebukati to leave as per the Constitution to allow IEBC to run smoothly and hold the coming by-elections,” he said.
However, Nandi Senator Samsom Cherargei justified the purge on the dissenting commissioners, saying it was important to get rid of them before Chebukati’s term ends early next year.
“We cannot allow Cherera and her team to take over IEBC. We want to replace everyone at IEBC and we are considering a judicial review to run parallel to the tribunal that will be set up to investigate the activities at Bomas,” he said.
On August 15, the four commissioners held a press conference just when Chebukati was about to announce the presidential winner and said they were not part of the process that came up with the winning candidate.
They later told the Supreme Court that they were alienated from the tallying and verification of votes at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi, which was the national tallying centre.
However, the court disagreed with the commissioners, saying they actively participated in the election process. The judgment read by Chief Justice Martha Koome on the issue of whether the electoral body carried out the verification, tallying, and declaration of results under the Constitution added that the last-minute wrangles in the IEBC could not be a basis to nullify a presidential election.
Yesterday, Wanderi told The Saturday Standard that they are waiting for the petition.
“I have no comment. We will just wait. The law is very clear on what should be done,” he said.
Methu said the overall role of the Senate was to ensure government institutions serve the interests of Kenyans under the Constitution.
The senator said the four commissioners failed to provide evidence to substantiate accusations that Chebukati had compromised elections.
“Acknowledge that the mandate of tallying and verification of votes is vested in the commission as a collective, and cannot be conducted with the exclusion of any member of the commission, good corporate governance espoused in the provisions of the Constitution,” Methu said.
The senator said the direct result of the conduct of the four commissioners plunged the country into a state of disquiet and uncertainty that resulted in questions being raised about the legitimacy and legality of the results and the integrity of the electoral process.
He said the process of ensuring State institutions operate independently and observe the rule of law will be extended to all agencies to ensure Kenyans’ access to justice and the value of their taxes.
“I call upon IEBC to effect the legal and institutional reforms recommended by the Supreme Court ruling on the presidential petition No. E005 of 2022,” reads the petition.
“I also urge the standing committee on Justice, Legal Affairs, and Human Rights to study the Supreme Court ruling and introduce legislation that will seal existing loopholes in the electoral process, including the manner of appointment of future IEBC commissioners, and enhance the statutory and regulatory framework on the separate policy and administrative remit of the IEBC.”
Methu said once the petition is deliberated by the Senate, it will be presented to the president for the appointment of a tribunal for the removal of the commissioners under Article 251(3) of the Constitution.
He said the conduct of the commissioners was a gross violation of the Constitution and a breach of their oath.