Poll agency wars rage on as deputy CEO sent home
The fallout within the country’s elections agency over the presidential election results escalated yesterday after the Deputy Chief Executive Officer and head of operations Ruth Kulundu was interdicted.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is said to have taken the decision to send Kulundu home after it issued her with two show-cause letters asking her to explain why she facilitated the commissioners to hold a plenary meeting behind the backs of commission chairperson Wafula Chebukati and two other commissioners, Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye and CEO, Marjan Hussein Marjan. The four commissioners are Juliana Cherera, Francis Wanderi, Irene Masit and Justus Abonyo.
The two show-cause letters include one delivered to Kulundu on August 29 by her boss, CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan at a time when the Supreme Court was yet to issue its final decision on the presidential election petition challenging the Commission’s declaration of William Ruto as the winner and another one delivered on Tuesday morning hours before she was sent packing. Insiders aware of the ongoings said that while Kulundu already responded to the first letter where she exonerated herself from any wrongdoing, it is the second letter that brought to the fore the issues facing the commission as she was sent packing before she could even respond to it.
Kulundu was supposed to respond to the letter before 4 pm yesterday (Wednesday) explaining what her role was during the entire period.
In one of the letters sent to her, Marjan accused her of among other things, convening a commission plenary meeting on August 26th without his approval where the four commissioners who opposed Chebukati’s official declaration of the presidential election at Bomas of Kenya decided to hire a different set of lawyers- Paul Muite and Issah Mansur- to represent them during the hearing of the election petition at the Supreme court a decision that was objected by Prof Githu Muigai who was representing the Chairman.
Kulundu, it was understood, was the one who facilitated the actions of the breakaway four commissioners on grounds that they were the majority.
Apart from Marjan accusing her of insubordination and a serious breach of her employment contract, he also accused her of threatening and intimidating junior staff including the acting director of voter registration and operations Moses Sunkuli.
The decision of the commission immediately sparked protest from the MPs allied to Azimio-One Kenya coalition who gave the electoral agency 48 hours to rescind its decision to interdict her.
Seventeen lawmakers who are attending the ongoing five day induction at a Nairobi hotel Chebukati to stop making arbitrary decisions such as interdicting officers and instead proceed for his terminal leave set for next month ahead of expiry of his term at the commission.
They told Chebukati to stop running the commission as his own personal property.
Addressing a news conference yesterday, the lawmakers claimed that Kulundu was sent home on Tuesday without being given an opportunity to defend herself just a day after the commission issued to her a show cause letter.
Led by MPs Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Esther Passaris (Nairobi County) and Sabina Chege (Nominated), the MPs claimed that Chebukati with the help of commissioners Molu and Guliye issued the interdictory letter yet they are the minority. “We want IEBC and the Ruto administration to move with speed and rescind this decision of interdicting Kulundu. Rescind this decision and restore back her job and all the allowances she was getting, failure to which we will initiate unspecified actions which will force you to follow the law,” said Wandayi.
Wandayi in particular said that a decision of such magnitude required the seven commissioners to sit and agree on as it is not a matter that can be canvassed by a small section of the commission.
According to him, IEBC and the Ruto administration is under obligation to follow the rule of law by avoiding victimising and issuing arbitral decisions to public servants who are discharging their mandate in a free and fair manner.
Sabina said as Azimio lawmakers they will not allow women with strong characters to be victimised while performing their duties. “You cannot run IEBC like a kiosk, as Azimio members we will not let this matter go, there is nowhere three commissioners can just sit and victimise staff who did their work in accordance with the law,” she said.
Passaris told the commission that even if as Azimio they had accepted the decision of the Supreme Court that does not mean they had agreed with its decision. “IEBC should know that the eight million Kenyans who did not vote in the last general election is because they do not have faith in them, therefore they should stop this victimisation thing they are doing. We have many problems as Kenyans and that is what we need to focus on not these side shows,” said Passaris.