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Embattled Masit alleges threats, says security and car withdrawn

IEBC Commissioner Irene Masit during a past media briefing at the Bomas of Kenya. [Jonah Onyango, Standard

After months of bickering, threats and accusations over the fate of the four ‘rebel’ electoral commissioners, the final purge has started.

Yesterday, Irene Masit, the only commissioner in the “Cherera Four” now left in the electoral commission, chose the risky option of fighting to the end even as her three colleagues threw in the towel in exchange of some form of freedom from public ridicule.

When the pre-trial conference began, the tribunal established to investigate Deputy IEBC chairperson, Juliana Cherera, commissioners Justus Nyangaya, Francis Wanderi and Irene Masit was told of some pressure from some powerful sources.

Masit told the tribunal that she was being pressured by people known to her to resign. To ratchet up this pressure, Masit who has already been suspended by President William Ruto, said her official vehicle, driver and bodyguard had been withdrawn.

Justice Aggrey Muchelule, who is chairing the tribunal, said Masit is entitled to the perks commensurate to her office as provided by the Constitution.

The Appellate Judge said Masit should be allowed to enjoy all privileges entitled to her office until the tribunal delivers its verdict, saying allegations regarding alleged pressure on her to resign will be treated as rumours.

“This tribunal treats allegations raised by advocate Donald Kipkorir as rumours since he has not come out clearly to demonstrate who is pressurising Masit to resign. However, she should be allowed to enjoy all privileges entitled to her until the verdict of this process is out,” said Muchelule.

Her lawyer further said Masit was out to clear her name of any wrongdoing and will participate in the process to the end. He wanted the process expedited to deliver justice to her. The judge said he had received official communication from the President about the resignation of Cherera, Nyangaya and Wanderi and that the tribunal will probe Masit.

Muchelule said that unless there are staying orders from the High Court, the tribunal will continue with the hearings which will start on December 20. Masit was given until December 19 midnight to file her responses before the tribunal. Kipkorir had earlier requested the tribunal to adjourn its sittings to allow him attend a birthday party of his son who was turning five, saying his classmates would be present and that it would be very disappointing if he failed to show up.

“I would kindly request this tribunal to allow me to be away since my son is turning five years old today and we have a birthday party with his entire classmates present, I request that we continue with these proceedings on Tuesday if possible,” requested Kipkorir.

Adjourned sittings

Muchelule adjourned the sittings for 30 minutes to consider the request and on returning, he said that the committee will commence its sittings on December 20, with the commissioner supposed to have sent her responses by then.

The judge said each of the commissioners was appointed individually, took oath of office individually and is being sought to be removed from office individually, dismissing Korir’s request for it to stop its proceedings since the other three commissioners had resigned.

The National Assembly received four petitions presented by the Republican Liberty Party, Rev Dennis Thumbi, Geoffrey Langat and Steve Owuor seeking the removal of Cherera, Masit, Nyangaya and Wanderi from office for gross violation of the Constitution.

The petitioners sought to have four commissioners kicked out of office on various grounds including serious violation of the constitution, gross misconduct and incompetence after which they were summoned to appear before National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee.

The tribunal has four members who include Justice  Muchelule as chair, Caroline Kamende, Mathew Nyabena and Saeed Khamis.

Their mandate is to consider petitions presented against the four commissioners seeking to have them kicked out of office. During summons to make submissions before the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, the four commissioners did not appear in person but were represented by their advocates where they argued that the proceedings were a violation of their rights.

Cherera, Wanderi and Nyangaya have already submitted their letters of resignation to the President, leaving Masit as the only one being sought to be removed from office after they were criticised for attempting to subvert the will of the people. Trouble for the four commissioners started on August 15 when they walked out of Bomas, the presidential tallying centre and disowned results which were later announced by IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, claiming the tallying had been opaque and unilateral.

Six-year term

The four commissioners later addressed the media in Nairobi disputing the result. Chebukati had declared Ruto as the duly elected President. Chebukati and commissioners Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye will be leaving office on January 17 after completing their six-year term.

President Ruto later accused the commissioners who supported a petition filed by  Azimio la Umoja Presidential candidate Raila Odinga of trying to subvert the will of the people. The Supreme Court threw out the petition which the four commissioners had supported seeking to invalidate Ruto’s win.

Dismissing them as rogue, the President vowed to ensure they were made to answer for their role in the debacle witnessed at Bomas.

President Ruto’s allies had hoped that the truth of what really happened in Bomas would be exposed and the role played by the commissioners explained.

On the other hand, Raila and his supporters have accused the President of witch-hunt in attempt to punish the four commissioners who were opposed to his win, further claiming that this is a plot to reconstitute the electoral commission in his favour in readiness of the elections in 2027.