The bipartisan talks that prioritised reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) have seemingly collapsed but the IEBC selection panel is up and running.
In an exclusive interview with The Standard yesterday, the IEBC selection panel chairperson Nelson Makanda dismissed claims that their operations were suspended to give room for the bipartisan talks aimed at resolving political differences between President William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga.
“The IEBC panel is still working and has not abandoned its duties. The panel is in office, properly constituted and working. As a matter of fact, we are sitting tomorrow afternoon at 2.30 pm. There is nothing to hide,” he said.
Dr Makanda said the selection panel took a break on their own volition when political temperatures heightened in the country and denied allegations that they got orders from President Ruto to halt operations until a resolution is reached on by the bipartisan committee comprising of Azimio and Kenya kwanza legislators.
The bipartisan committee’s top agenda was finding a resolution on the mode of selection of the new IEBC commissioners.
However, the IEBC selection panel said they are working but with the consideration of the political atmosphere in mind.
“This panel has not adjourned and no directives from any arm of the government was given to adjourn. The panel took note of the political environment and realized that one of their key agenda was the composition of the panel and we decided to allow a process that remains peaceful,” Makanda told The Standard.
“Since I took office I am yet to receive any sort of communication from the Executive or anyone,” he added.
Before they went on a break the selection panel was to start shortlisting candidates to fill posts left vacant by the Wafula Chebukati-led commission.
Makanda said 925 Kenyans applied to be IEBC commissioners.
The position of IEBC chairperson attracted 25 applicants.
“As at the 5pm deadline, the preliminary perusal of physical and electronic records indicates a total of nine online applications and 16 hard copy applications for Chairperson of the IEBC had been received,” Makanda told the press at KICC in Nairobi.
He further noted that the preliminary examination of their records had indicated that 900 applicants, out of which 385 had submitted hard copy applications while 515 had applied online for the positions of six commissioners of IEBC.
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The selection panel was to embark on scrutinising the applicants physical and electronic submissions before they gazette the successful candidates to be interviewed.
Makanda revealed that they have already gone through the applications.
“The panel has taken judicial duty to thoroughly go through the names and qualifications so that we ensure that we are fair to each one of them. We know that we have a deadline so we are still working and on course to complete that task,” he told The Standard.
He further said that the selection panel has been meeting to discuss IEBC matters and that all their communications are on record.
“The panel has been meeting openly and there is nothing to hide. If the panel is meeting once in while all our proceedings are recorded. There are in Hansard,” he said.
And although they are yet to shortlist the applicants, Makanda said they are still on track and will adhere to constitutional timelines.
“No one is to blame for the delay, we are still on the timeline, we need to be careful when choosing those who will be mandate to take control of the IEBC. Remember the product of this panel has a great responsibility,” he said
Even though the selection panel chair insists that he has never received any instructions from political players, on Tuesday, the Bipartisan Committee co-chair George Murugara said Azimio had demanded that the committee writes to the team to stop them from undertaking their roles.
“But since there is no law backing us to instruct an independent institution as Kenya kwanza we were against the idea so we agreed to request the selection panel on its own volition and most likely because they are human beings and care for the nation, they could opt to suspend and that was our agreement,” he said. He however said Azimio went behind his back and redrafted the letter.
But Bipartisan Committee co-chair Otiende Amollo (Azimio) yesterday said they had already agreed that in the interim they would stop the selection process but Kenya Kwanza team later changed their minds arguing that the selection panel is an independent institution and cannot be directed.
“His argument is totally flawed because the bipartisan talks are founded on the sovereignty of the people. The IEBC or the selection panel cannot be independent in any event if we cannot instruct them in the interim to stop the process and to preserve the servers. How will we then eventually instruct them on our final decisions as a committee?” Amollo posed.
Makanda clarified that he was not in receipt of any letter from either Kenya Kwanza or Azimio.
Kenya Kwanza gave Azimio an ultimatum to resume talks on Tuesday next week failure to which the selection panel will proceed with reconstitution of IEBC.
But Amollo said: “These talks were predicated on a political agreement between Ruto and Raila. That was the foundation of the talks. It’s not about formalities. The talks have been dissolved. Our party leader announced it. What other formalities do they need?”