Surprise order on IEBC bosses splits Raila-Ruto camps

When President William Ruto met with Azimio leader Raila Odinga at Nyayo Stadium while watching football match between AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia on May 14, 2023. [PCS]

The High Court order that recruitment of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chiefs should resume may cancel out the National Dialogue Report Committee (Nadco) report.

According to the court, the Nadco team lacked a legal and constitutional backing and its resolutions could not be used to justify why the IEBC selection panel should be stopped from continuing with its business.

“I respectfully reject the notion that the political question doctrine should override the very explicit constitutional provisions and that the prevailing circumstances should be allowed to continue to threaten and infringe on rights guaranteed by the Constitution. As such, compliance of the Constitution should not be suspended for the sake of political expediency,” Justice Mugure Thande ruled.

The decision has worsened the division in Azimio where its leaders have been reading from different scripts over the report. Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka have supported the document while Martha Karua and Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni have opposed it.

While most of the leaders who were contacted by The Standard were unwilling to comment on the way forward, those who did predicted it may end up like the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill.

National Assembly Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi is among the leaders who said they would not comment over the ruling at the moment explaining, “I will do so once I read and internalize the court ruling”.

To Kioni, the court’s decision was long overdue as the dialogue team had no legal backing. He said the ruling had vindicated him as he had raised the same issues at Bomas and even urged his counterparts in Azimio to abandon the talks.

“The dialogue team is only anchored by a way of a motion in the National Assembly and through the gazettement which are not statutory requirements to legalize the talks or the document and for now, it (the Nadco report) joins a long list of reports that have ended up wasting public resources and time,” Kioni told The Standard on phone.

According to Kioni who was part of the technical team, the decision by the High Court was as a result of lack of commitment by the Kenya Kwanza administration on the talks. He said if the government wanted to give life to the report, it would have occasioned the summoning of parliament and entrench the report into an act.

He said, as a result of the ruling, the whole report is of no value and that it was impugned.

But Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru was optimistic all is not lost and that the ruling was only meant to forestall a constitutional crisis on the matter of the IEBC commissioners.

“Nadco’s mandate goes beyond the IEBC issue and so it’s role continues to be important on other national issues. What the judgement does is to forestall a crisis by demanding immediate resolution of this important matter which can still be completed taking into account the Nadco principles,” Waiguru said.

But to other UDA elected leaders, including its Secretary to the Legal Affairs Edward Muriu, the government was only playing hide and seek with the opposition and that the talks were only meant to manage the Azimio side since they were not anchored on any law.

“The discussions had no legal basis and were a waste of time, only for political expediency. Even the terms of enforceability of resolutions points to naught,” Muriu said. “The IEBC reconstitution was a recommendation of the High Court and different stakeholders were represented and the matter was passed in parliament. It is also imperative to note that we have until March to solve the boundary review question and we can’t wait for the talks to solve the issue as that would result in a crisis,” Muriu said.

According to Kiambu Senator Karungo Wa Thangw’a, the Nadco team’s sole purpose was to ‘massage some egos of some people who could not admit that they lost’.

“We were given time to heal from the election hangovers and to understand that we won the elections and we are in control. Raila was also using the talks to run away from his friends who kept pressuring him to continue with the protests and the talks provided a win-win situation,” the senator said.

Githunguri MP Gathoni Wamuchomba, while hailing the court decision, accused the Kenya Kwanza administration of abandoning ‘Wanjiku’ saying only the courts were left to save the ordinary Kenyans.

“The Nadco report calls for creation of offices such as that of the Official Opposition leader and entrenchment of the office of Prime Cabinet Secretary into the Constitution which is contrary to what the Mt Kenya region voted for in the 2022 General Election.

“We voted to have Raila transported to Bondo through a wheelbarrow and not to create an office for him. The report also recommends an additional 40 women to parliament, a move that does not benefit the electorate,” said Wamuchomba.

The MP said the talks were meant to manage Raila with expectations and to manage the economic pressure and vowed to oppose the report should it be tabled in the National Assembly.

Questions have emerged on what will happen with the report which had Raila’s blessings and had been approved by Azimio Parliamentary caucus. Raila and Kalonzo said the reconstitution of IEBC was their biggest take home from the talks.

Political analyst Charles Njoroge said the unfolding events show the government and the Opposition could be in a hide and seek game.