Storm rocks IEBC over fresh presidential election team

Electoral commissioners Wednesday evening failed to agree on the new team appointed to oversee fresh presidential elections.

A day-long meeting to discuss IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati’s controversial appointment of a seven-member team to oversee the October 17 poll ended in a stalemate after four commissioners protested at the decision.

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The seven commissioners will resume talks today even as Jubilee rejected two of the officials appointed. They include the project coordinator in a list of nine IEBC employees Jubilee claims are partisan.

Last evening, Chebukati told off Jubilee over its claims. He insisted the commission is independent and termed insinuations on the nine officials as unacceptable.

“I appeal to you, as I have appealed to NASA, that you respect the independence of the commission and allow us to make our internal changes as we had already communicated,” Chebukati’s reply to a letter by Jubilee Secretary General Raphel Tuju read.

He said he has invited NASA and Jubilee to a meeting this morning to discuss pertinent issues regarding the presidential election.

Acting unilaterally

Sources said the four commissioners – vice chairperson Consolata Nkatha, Prof Abdi Guliye, Dr Paul Kurgat, and Mr Boya Molu – accused Chebukati of acting unilaterally in selecting the team.

They were said to have argued that without the full Supreme Court judgement, any action against individual staff is not justified and could be interpreted as an independent commission taking directions from external forces.

NASA, led by Raila Odinga, who successfully petitioned against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory, has accused IEBC officials, among them Chief Executive Ezra Chiloba, of bungling the election. Chiloba has been sidelined in the appointment of the new team.

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Chebukati is understood to have the support of commissioners Roselyn Akombe and Margaret Mwachanya in the new appointments he made as the national returning officer for presidential elections.

“We were shocked because at no one point did we discuss or agree to effect changes in our secretariat. We have asked for an urgent meeting to discuss this matter because the commission is run by the commissioners not one individual. Secondly, some of us are of the view that the chairman assumed and purported to exercise powers he doesn’t have under the law,” said one of the commissioners.

The commissioner added: “Assignment of duties to staff and implementation of commission decisions is the work of the commission secretary (Chiloba), who is also the accounting officer. We have also reliably learnt some of us met some senior political players in this election on Monday evening. We have to be sure that some decisions such as these were not the product of such meetings as alleged.”

Another commissioner said: “We have also seen another memo the chairman sent to the commission secretary. In that memo, he is asking the CEO to do things we have not discussed. For example, he is asking CEO to immediately punish people within ICT department but hasn’t even identified such officers. We can’t continue like this otherwise the commission will fall apart.”

The commissioners spoke to The Standard on Tuesday night after the announcement by Chebukati of the changes. They said they had learnt of the development through the media.

Wednesday, another commissioner said they are about to go into a plenary meeting to discuss the changes.

“The chairman made the changes in his capacity as the national returning officer. I fully support his decision. We are scheduled to hold a meeting to deliberate on the same,” said the commissioner.

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Turbulent waters

“Some decisions require boldness. There comes a time a man has to be a man to navigate turbulent waters, take leadership, and show direction,” the official said.

The official confirmed that Chebukati had written to Chiloba to act on some issues in the ICT department before the latest action. “There was a memo to the CEO to that effect. Details are still scanty, though. It didn’t touch on specific individuals but raised issues of concern,” said the official.

“The chairman insisted that he did that in his individual capacity as the national returning officer and that he took full responsibility for the decision,” said another official.

The stormy session lasted the better part of the day and the commissioners took a break as both parties stuck to their positions.

After resuming in the evening, commissioners resolved to postpone the meeting to today. One commissioner expressed optimism they would reach an agreement.

“We have actually deferred the meeting to tomorrow (today). It looks like there is emerging consensus from the rest of the commissioners on the chairman’s proposal. Let’s play it more forward looking. We need to save our country,” said the commissioner.

The commission was also facing a new crisis after the ruling Jubilee objected to the naming of IEBC deputy CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan as the project coordinator and Salome Oyugi as the head of the legal department. Oyugi replaces Ms Praxedes Tororey.

Other than Marjan who will now take most of Chiloba’s roles, reporting directly to Chebukati, the others picked are the head of operations, Dr Sidney Namulungu, who takes over from Betty Nyabuto-Sungura, while the new head of logistics is Nancy Kariuki. She takes the duties of director elections, Immaculate Kassait.

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Also named is the new head of training, Bernard Moseti, while the head of ICT will be Albert Gogo. He will be under the direct supervision of the national returning officer. Gogo will take the position of James Muhati while Silas Rotich will become the new head of national tallying centre.

Report directly

There was confusion at Anniversary Towers on how the new team would work and the lines of reporting given that some of those picked will report directly to him and bypass some of their hitherto seniors.

However, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s party sensationally claimed they had received information indicating that nine officials were partisan and thus asked Chebukati to ensure they are not given responsibilities in the electoral process.

Also named in Tuju’s letter are Decimah Mmayi (director, research and development), the current investigations and prosecutions manager at IEBC, Chrispine Owiye, the human resources development manager, Joseph Ayatta, Joyce Ekuam (voter education boss), Tabitha Mutemi (corporate affairs and events manager), Linus Onyango (head of election security), and the boundaries manager, Caroline Manyange.

“We have received credible information that in the list are people known to be partisan,” Tuju claimed. [Geoffrey Mosoku, Roselyn Obala, Moses Njagi and Mwaniki Munuhe]

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