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IEBC commissioners from left: Justus Nyang'aya, Francis Wanderi, Vice-chairperson Juliana Cherera and Irene Masit at Serena Hotel, Nairobi on August 16, 2022. Azimio la Umoja coalition party alleged a plot by Kenya Kwanza to remove the four from office.

 

Azimio la Umoja coalition party has alleged a plot by Kenya Kwanza to remove from office four Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) members who differed with Chairperson Wafula Chebukati on the August 9 presidential election results. 

Four petitions presented in the National Assembly on Tuesday seek to remove from office Vice Chairperson Juliana Cherera, Mr Justus Nyang’aya, Ms Irene Masit and Mr Wanderi Kamau on the grounds of gross violation of the Constitution and a breach of their oath.

The petitions, filed separately by the Republican Party, Geoffrey Langat, Jerry Owuor and Reverend Ndwiga Nthumbi, and presented by Speaker Moses Wetang’ula, have lifted the lid off the plan by Kenya Kwanza to kick-start the process of hounding the four out of office so that they proceed home together with Mr Chebukati, Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu, who are retiring.

The petitioners say the four have no legitimacy to hold the offices. They want MPs to find the commissioners unfit to hold public office and recommend to President William Ruto to set up a tribunal to probe their conduct.

“The tribunal shall investigate the matter expeditiously, report on the facts and make a binding recommendation to the President, who shall act within 30 days,” reads the Constitution. 

The petitions have been transmitted to the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, which has 14 days to report back to the House on whether they have merit.

This means the panel has until November 29 to present its report just two days before the House goes into long Christmas recess (December 2–February 12). Once the committee tables the report, the House will have 10 days to decide whether the petitions have valid grounds for the removal of the commissioners.

 

ODM-nominated MP John Mbadi told Sunday Nation that Kenya Kwanza is treating the four as its enemies and wants to push them out to get friendly replacements.

“They want seven commissioners at IEBC who can sing their tune and do their bidding and that is not how to run a country. We need to be careful because we are seeing dictatorship creeping back,” he said.

“We are now cheering as they want to hound out the four commissioners; if we are not careful, we may end up with a commission that is compliant to Kenya Kwanza and even root for the extension of the term limit. We, therefore, need to be careful.”

But even as the four petitions are set to be considered by the committee starting next week, Azimio has questioned why three other petitions by Shem Otieno seeking to remove Mr Chebukati, Prof Guliye and Mr Molu filed in the National Assembly on October 17 and officially processed by the Main Records Unit on October 25 never reached the floor of the House, yet those seeking to remove the dissenters were quickly processed and sent to the House.

The Raila Odinga-led coalition is reading a sinister motive on how the Otieno petitions have been hidden, terming it part of a wider scheme to shield Mr Chebukati from answering accountability questions in relation to the election.

Articles 37 and 119 of the Constitution give every member of the public the right to petition Parliament on any matter that is under its jurisdiction. One has to send such petitions to the office of the clerk of the National Assembly or of the Senate.

 

Upon receipt, a petition is processed at Parliament’s main records unit, where it is stamped and forwarded to the speaker for approval and onward tabling.

In the House, the petition is read by the speaker and assigned to the relevant committee. The public can petition directly or through their elected leaders.

Mr Wetang’ula on Wednesday said his office had not received Mr Otieno’s petitions, telling Azimio to confirm with the office of the clerk on their whereabouts.

Chebukati role questioned

Mr Otieno accuses Mr Chebukati, Prof Guliye and Mr Molu of gross violation of the Constitution, incompetence and gross misconduct.

He avers that, contrary to the Constitution, the three undermined the authority of the IEBC by overriding, excluding, vetoing and ignoring the other commissioners when discharging their duty.

“The chairperson usurped the powers collectively vested in the IEBC by constantly issuing policy and press statements without due regard for and consultations with the other members of the commission,” reads the petition.

Sunday Nation has learnt that the delay in relaying the petitions to the floor of the House is among the schemes Kenya Kwanza is employing to ensure the remaining days in the tenure of Mr Chebukati and the two commissioners are not interfered with.

In the process, the coalition will then argue that the matter has been overtaken by events as the three will have left office, making the petitions irrelevant. This will give the House a perfect opportunity to deal with the Cherera group. 

In the plan, once the term of Mr Chebukati and the two commissioners ends, the Legal Affairs committee will be ready with the report on the four commissioners—which will then be prioritised, adopted and transmitted to the President for further action.

As the process will be going on, Kenya Kwanza MPs will consider the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2022, sponsored by National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa.

The bill was on the Order Paper on Thursday and was set to be introduced for the first reading, but the election of Kenya’s nominees to the East African Legislative Assembly, which continued late into the evening, led to the alteration of the order of business.

The bill is seeking to reduce the current allocation of the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), which nominates four of the seven members of the panel. It wants the PSC to nominate two members down from the current four, while donating the other two slots to the Political Parties Liaison Committee and the Public Service Commission.

The Law Society of Kenya and the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya will retain their one and two nominee slots respectively, in the proposed amendments.

“The principal object of this bill is to amend the first schedule to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission No 9 of 2011 to change the composition of the selection panel that oversees the filling of vacancies in the commission,” it states.

Azimio has vowed to shoot down the proposal, terming it an attempt by President Ruto to “capture” the electoral commission ahead of the 2027 General Election. Pokot South MP David Pkosing told Sunday Nation that Kenya Kwanza wants a new IEBC team after the exit of Mr Chebukati and the two commissioners. “They know Mr Chebukati is leaving and they want everybody else to leave,” he said. 

Nyando MP Jared Okelo said Kenya Kwanza is determined to ensure the Cherera group is sent home. “Up to now, Kenya Kwanza believes that those four commissioners are our (Azimio’s) people and, therefore, even if they replace Mr Chebukati and the two other commissioners, they will still be the minority.”

Mr Okelo said Kenya Kwanza is aware that the four commissioners will be at the core of the 2027 elections, hence its desire to send them home.

“Their eyes (Kenya Kwanza) are trained on the 2027 election, believing that Mr Odinga will be on the ballot, but the people who drafted our Constitution made it difficult to remove constitutional office holders and, therefore, it’s not going to be a walk in the park to remove the commissioners,” Mr Okelo said.

Azimio questioned why the speaker allowed the petitions to be committed before JLAC, yet there is a similar matter in court.

“For a petition to be admitted before the House, the matter must not be pending in court. That is the requirement of the Standing Orders,” said an MP. By Samwel Owino, NMG

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