Ruto public show as he sets the ball rolling for recall of errant leaders

President William Ruto presses the new IEBC bill he just signed into law with Kenya Government logo.  [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

President William Ruto re-started the reconstitution of the electoral commission on Tuesday, a move that sets the ball rolling for the recall of rogue lawmakers.

At the same time, the Head of State announced the start of a six-day national dialogue forum next Monday to address issues that saw youthful Kenyans protest against his administration.

Under siege from Generation Zs and Millenials, Ruto sought refuge in the opposition, assembling rivals to witness him signing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Amendment Bill into law at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.

The IEBC law prescribes the constitution of the IEBC selection panel - now expanded to include nine members from seven - which the president is soon expected to form. It was a recommendation by the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) that led talks between Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

"Today's assent of the IEBC amendment Bill marks a significant step in the actualisation of one of the recommendations of Nadco and testifies to our country's ability to navigate difficult, complex and sometimes divisive issues that could undermine our national cohesion, stability and security," said Ruto, urging Parliament to expedite eight other Nadco bills.

Gen Zs and Millennials have recently pressured Ruto to urgently reconstitute the IEBC to facilitate the recall of Members of Parliament who voted in favour of the much-criticised Finance Bill, 2024. It features among demands that include the sacking of 'corrupt and incompetent' Cabinet secretaries and, ultimately, Ruto's resignation.

Recalling an MP is a tedious process that begins by petitioning the IEBC and presenting signatures to the electoral agency, which is currently not viable due to the absence of electoral commissioners.

Fast losing popularity among the youths, the President got a much-needed shoulder to lean on in Raila and Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka, and their allies who flanked them, all of whom brandished copies of the signed law.

A week earlier, Raila had led his Orange Democratic Movement in pushing for Ruto's resignation as Gen Z and Millennial protesters have demanded. 

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, his estranged partner, was present, too, and offered his support despite a breach in protocol that exposed the deep-seated tensions between Gachagua and his boss.

As National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah invited Raila to the podium, he asked that the former prime minister invite the president, slighting Gachagua, who Ruto had to invite to speak first.

But they all spoke in one voice, referring to the historic moment achieved by having the IEBC law, midwifed by dialogue between Ruto and Raila, assented to.

"The constitution of the IEBC is a great step for our country," Gachagua stated as he called on the youth to drop their protests, with Raila urging proper electoral reforms that would address the perennial disquiet.

"If we find a solution to this issue of the IEBC, we will be on the way to resolving many issues in our country," he said, terming the divisions in the former commission 'shameful'.

The former premier called for a full implementation of Nadco's report, saying it would address issues raised by Gen Z and Millennial protesters, even as he urged dialogue and leadership to "move the country forward".

"We are at a very crucial juncture in our history. Our country has moved forward. There have been highs and lows... we require a wider engagement," said Raila, proposing a "Kenya we Want convention".

Later, he and Ruto would announce a multi-sectoral political forum to dialogue next week, with participants expected to foot their bills as part of government austerity measures. Stakeholders will nominate participants to the 150-member committee by Friday.

"There is general consensus that the country requires to confront and address long-standing priority national issues including the national debt, public expenditure and anti-corruption measures," said Ruto. Gen Zs and Millennials had initially rejected talks, demanding action instead.