IEBC in daylong crisis meeting following Supreme Court edict

Electoral commissioners were Saturday holed up in a daylong crisis meeting to craft the way forward in light of the Supreme Court determination that nullified the August 8 presidential election.

This came as a push-and-pull emerged between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga over the fate of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

While Jubilee wants the electoral team to remain intact, the National Super Alliance insists the commission chaired by Mr Wafula Chebukati cannot be trusted to manage a fresh ballot as presently constituted.  

Mr Chebukati had on Friday talked about the meeting in his reaction to the Supreme Court determination which had some scathing assessment of the commission.

“It is worth noting that the new commissioners only took office seven months ago, without any changes made to the secretariat. To protect the integrity of the sovereign will of the Kenyan people, the commission intends to make internal changes to our personnel and processes as we prepare for the fresh presidential election in 60 days,” Mr Chebukati had said, adding that the commission was also inviting the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions “to urgently and expeditiously investigate and prosecute any of our staff that may have been involved in violation of the Election Offences Act.”

STORMY MEETING

The ruling could again bring to the fore the underlying infighting within the commission, according to sources.

Saturday’s meeting was said to have been stormy as commissioners deliberated on the issues pointed out during the Supreme Court proceedings and ruling even before the judges release the full decision within 21 days.

IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba, who is among those said to be targeted by the commissioners, was said to have arrived at the meeting after it started but left in a huff.

Instructively, Mr Chiloba was also not present during the hastily convened Friday afternoon meeting addressed by the Chairman and attended by commissioners Roselyn Akombe, Prof Yakub Guliye and Ms Margaret Mwachanya.

SPOTLIGHT

Apart from Mr Chiloba, other senior officials in the secretariat are also in the spotlight.

On Friday, Nasa named Mr Chiloba, Deputy Commission Secretary (Operations) Ms Betty Sungura-Nyabuto, Legal and Public Affairs Director Praxedes Tororey, Voter Registration and Electoral Operations Director Immaculate Kassait and ICT Director James Muhati.

Commissioner Guliye, who chairs the ICT committee of IEBC, was also named even though his removal may prove to be a tougher task than that of the secretariat given the limited time available for IEBC to conduct a fresh presidential election within 60 days from Friday.

However, President Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto and other Jubilee stalwarts have asked Mr Chiloba and IEBC staff who have been singled out to stay put.

BLOCK ATTEMPTS

While meeting Jubilee governors and MCAs on Saturday at State House and in subsequent campaign meetings in Nakuru and Narok, President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto vowed to block any attempts by Nasa’s Raila Odinga to change the commission.

“We have been down this road before. This time, we will not. We have no time to change the IEBC. You accepted the results of the other elective seats in an election that was managed by this same IEBC. Get ready for an election, and Raila, see you at the ballot,” said President Kenyatta.

On Friday, Elgeyo Marakwet senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who accompanied President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to Nairobi’s Burma market, had also said that if Nasa wants to remove the IEBC staff, then Jubilee too will engineer the removal of Supreme Court judges.

While IEBC has of late become the home of intrigues, possibly the worst came on Thursday when a commissioner was reportedly involved in a physical altercation with a senior secretariat official following the report of the court-ordered audit of the ICT.

The commissioner demanded to know how his login credentials had been used to access the election results database.

INTERNAL MEMO

Two different sources narrated to the Sunday Nation that the commissioner was raging at the secretariat official and, when he did not get a proper response, the situation quickly turned physical and some commissioners had to jump in to separate the two.

Shortly after Friday’s Supreme Court ruling, Mr Chiloba had written an internal memo to IEBC staff (Ref. IEBC/CEO/1/1/09/2017) asking them to be prepared for the fresh elections.

“Colleagues, from the bottom of my heart, I know that you did your best given the challenges we have had to surmount in the last two years,” Mr Chiloba said in the memo. “Do not lose perspective on this process. While the general public may not understand most of the investment you personally made, you should always remember that you served your country.”

In the memo, the CEO also implored the staff to be prepared to serve again when called upon.

NATIONAL EXAMINATIONS

On Wednesday, which was a day after the Supreme Court concluded the hearings, Mr Chiloba had also asked staff through the internal WhatsApp forum to “Take note that there is no official report either by the commission or court that has been published out there” in reaction to the ICT audit report  that was ordered by the court.

“Let us not be carried away by sensational one-sided reporting. We should be able to provide a complete report after judgment,” he added.

Besides the internal fights at IEBC, the commission, in announcing the date for the fresh elections as directed by the Supreme Court, will have to take into account several factors, including likely interference with the national examinations calendar.

The 60-day countdown that started on Friday September 1 will end on November 1.

NUMBER OF FACTORS

The Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination starts on October 31 to November 2 while the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination will kick off on November 6.

This means that for the IEBC to settle for a date, they will consider the availability of schools and also how to have ample security.

The date will be influenced by a number of factors including availability of the budget for electoral materials, availability of polling stations, most of which are in primary and secondary schools, and the availability of police.

Ordinarily, police provide security during the national examinations.

Now with the fresh presidential elections, ample security will also be required before, during and after, which will likely stretch the capacity of the force.

Supreme Court orders IEBC to conduct fresh polls in 60 days.

NHIF gets six detectives to investigate fraudulent claims

Stop the insults, Judiciary tells President Kenyatta