Chebukati team: We did our best despite hurdles
“We gave it our best!”
That was the self-assessment the chairman of the electoral commission, Wafula Chebukati, and two other commissioners, Abdi Guliye and Moya Bolu gave when they made their last public appearance as IEBC bosses at a Nairobi hotel, yesterday.
The three were completing the final task of the commission’s five-year electoral cycle by presenting to the public the post-election assessment report whose findings are expected to influence the conduct of the 2027 General Election and any other election or referendum that might be conducted in the intervening period.
That assignment came on the second last day of their six-year tenure, which ends today. The three were appointed on January 18, 2017, after their predecessors, led by the then chairman Issack Hassan, were all axed following Opposition protests over the conduct of the 2013 presidential election. Their non-renewable six-year term ends today.
Guliye warned that the job of IEBC commissioner is not for the faint-hearted.
“Please choose your commissioners wisely,” he said ahead of the re-opening of Parliament on Thursday to consider nominees of the selection panel that will interview candidates seeking to be commissioners.
He acknowledged that he and other commissioners had a difficult time during the August 9 election (see separate story) but they gave it their best.
“I have no apologies to make to anybody,” he said. “I did my best.”
Similarly, Bolu said that although the commissioners went through many challenges last year, none had been admitted to the hospital “even for a day” due to stress.
“We have served you to the best of our ability,” he said.
He, like Guliye, warned the selection panel to ensure that political stooges are not appointed to the electoral commission.
“It is easy to collapse the country if IEBC plays partisan politics,” he said.
To reduce the possibility of politicians appointing cronies to the commission, Attorney General Justin Muturi said he had submitted to Parliament a revised list of which institutions would nominate members to the selection panel. If his proposal is accepted, Parliament will get two slots; one for the majority and one for the minority sides, the Parliamentary Service Commission will remain with two, the Public Service Commission will get one, the Law Society of Kenya one, while another slot will go to religious institutions and one to the Political Parties Liaison Committee.
Describing himself, Bolu and Guliye as “the three musketeers”, Chebukati, challenged Parliament to pass the election Bills his team presented to give the incoming commission sufficient time to prepare for the next election. He also challenged the Treasury to fund IEBC annually, rather than only during election years.
“We brought down the cost of printing a ballot paper from Sh150 per paper to Sh25,” he said.
Chebukati, with his characteristic clean-shaven and shining head, has been going around the country, where IEBC has 47 election officers — one for each county — bidding farewell to the over 1,000 permanent commission staff.
Last week, he was in Eldoret, where he joined the staff in cutting a farewell cake in his honour.
According to him, 386 million people logged into the IEBC portal to access the results of the August 9 election. He said that although he had expected the media to publish the results of the presidential race, they did not live up to the expectation.
“Only one media house published the election results on its website,” he said.
During the 59th Madaraka Day celebrations in December, President William Ruto awarded Chebukati the Order of the Golden Heart (EGH), describing him as one of the true heroes of the difficult electioneering period during which commissioners and commission staff were allegedly harassed by State officers seeking to influence the outcome of the presidential election.
The President recently said he would form a commission of inquiry into what went wrong during the conduct of that election, a call that Chebukati echoed yesterday.
“The 2022 General Elections witnessed probably the gravest attempts to usurp the independence of the commission and the sovereign will of the people of Kenya as expressed in the polls,” he said. “For this reason, the commission wrote to the President requesting a public inquiry in respect of the process leading to the declaration of the final results for the Presidential election 2022 (read a verbatim speech in today’s People Daily)”.
Despite the challenges, Chebukati said he was leaving the commission with his head held high.
He will make history as the first IEBC chairman to leave the office at the end of his tenure over the last 16 years. All his predecessors had to leave acrimoniously before the end of their tenure.
“We have made our fair share of contribution towards strengthening democracy in Kenya,” he said. “We hold that the 9th August 2022 General Elections, whose presidential results were upheld by the Supreme Court, were free, fair, credible, transparent and impartial elections”.