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Cherargei claims Cheb*kati deserves job in Ruto’s gov’t

Tuesday, January 17th, 2023 16:14 | By
Senator Cherargei: Azimio members should not be offered PS jobs
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei at a past event. PHOTO/File

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei has opined that the outgoing Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Wafula Chebukati should be offered a position in the Kenya Kwanza administration.

The outspoken lawmaker claims that the retired elections official deserves a position in government after he showcased his bravery during the announcement of the results of the presidential elections despite intimidation and blackmail.

Cherargei claims that Chebukati, whose 6-year stint at the helm of the electoral agency ends today, is a man of strong resolve and cannot be swayed.

"The outgoing IEBC Chair Wafula Chebukati should be appointed to govt to continue to serve Kenyans. He cannot be intimidated or blackmailed. he is a man with strong resolve he can't be swayed. Uhuru Azimio-OKA tried to sway him but they failed terribly in the last elections!" he posted.

End of Chebukati's era

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chair Wafula Chebukati and two other commissioners have retired today after a six-year tumultuous journey at the agency.

To President William Ruto’s allies, the outgoing IEBC chief is a defender of democracy who saved “the will of the people” from being manipulated last year. However, supporters of opposition chief Raila Odinga, Chebukati and commissioners Molu Boya and Prof Abdi Guliye mismanaged the 2017 and 2022 General elections.

Like the proverbial cat with nine lives, Chebukati has overseen three presidential polls. And in all of them, his integrity has been questioned but he has survived, becoming the first IEBC boss to serve a full term since 2007.

In his inauguration speech, Ruto showered IEBC with accolades for doing its work under challenging circumstances and singling out Chebukati for resisting bribery and intimidation attempts.

“The IEBC did its best in the just-concluded election, with results relayed in the public portal as they came in, with Kenyans being in a position to tabulate and get the correct figures. I salute chairman Chebukati and call him the hero of this election for resisting threats and intimidation to subvert the will of the people,” said Ruto.

To signify his confidence, he conferred Chebukati with the Elder of the Order of the Golden Heart (EGH), the second highest in the country, on Jamhuri Day last month.

In contrast, Azimio-One Kenya presidential candidate Raila described Chebukati as a “criminal who should be prosecuted and sentenced to jail” for “irregularities” in the August election.

Raila, who lost to Ruto in the polls, has consistently accused Chebukati of committing a “crime against humanity,” even as the IEBC boss termed the August polls as the best he has ever presided over.

Chebukati, who was appointed by then President Uhuru Kenyatta in January 2017 to replace Issack Hassan, has had his high and low moments at the commission.

He will go down in history as one of the few heads to have exited after the successful competition of his full term, as his predecessors — such as Hassan and Samuel Kivuitu — were ignominiously hounded out before their time. Hassan and nine members of his team opted to resign and pave the way for new members after street protests staged by Raila and his allies.

Apart from surviving weeks of protests by the opposition, known colloquially as “Machozi Monday”, demanding that he quits, Chebukati stayed put to pull through two hotly-contested elections and one repeat presidential election.

Disputes of both the 2017 and 2022 elections ended up being settled by the Supreme Court.

Faced rebellion

Both in 2017 and 2022, Chebukati faced a rebellion from a section of commissioners but steered the electoral process despite immense pressure from political players to do things their way. And in the countdown to both elections, aspersions were cast on Chebukati’s ability to deliver a credible, free and fair poll.

In 2017, IEBC Vice Chairperson Connie Maina, and commissioners Paul Kurgat and Margaret Mwachanya turned the heat on Chebukati, accusing him of failing to show leadership in turbulent times.

“The commission chairperson has failed to be the steady and stable hand that steers the ship in difficult times and gives direction when needed. The boardroom has become a venue for peddling misinformation, a ground for brewing mistrust and a space for scrambling and chasing individual glory and credit,” the trio said.

Commissioners Maina, Kurgat and Mwachanya insisted that the nullified 2017 presidential election was properly conducted. However, they claimed IEBC was dysfunctional, with arbitrary decision-making, leaking of internal documents to serve personal goals and pursuit of personal interests.

The Supreme Court nullified the election following a petition filed by Raila, who had vied on a National Super Alliance (NASA) ticket, with Kalonzo Musyoka as his running mate.

In the aftermath of the verdict, Chebukati turned his wrath on IEBC chief executive officer Ezra Chiloba, with whom he had been at loggerheads, sending him on compulsory leave. He also demanded that he explain why he had contradicted the position adopted by the commission, what happened to printed forms meant to have security features and names of candidates printed in accordance with ballot proofs as verified by teams sent to Dubai.

Chebukati’s memo to Chiloba questioned why the Sh848 million satellite phones bought by the commission were not used to relay data from polling stations as originally planned, a ground that Raila had cited in his election petition. However, commissioners Maina, Kurgat, and Mwachanya disowned Chebukati’s letter and threw their weight behind Chiloba.

A few days before October 26, 2017, repeat presidential election, another commissioner, Roselyn Akombe, resigned. She accused IEBC of becoming a party to the political crisis and said her decision was due to threats to her life. She fled to the US and only returned to Kenya last year.

“It has become difficult to continue attending plenary meetings where commissioners come ready to vote on partisan lines and not to discuss the merit of issues before them,” said Akombe at the time.

In early 2018, Maina, Kurgat and Mwachanya also resigned, claiming that the commission was as good as dead with Chebukati at the helm. And for the next five years, Chebukati survived at the helm with only two commissioners — Molu and Prof Guliye — despite persistent questions of quorum and his integrity.

The events of 2017 were to be replayed in 2022 when Chebukati faced a rebellion from Vice Chairperson Juliana Cherera, commissioners Francis Wanderi, Irine Masit and Justus Nyang’aya, who accused him of making unilateral decisions.

The four commissioners described the percentages of the presidential election results as a mathematical absurdity since the total aggregation allegedly exceeded 100 per cent. They said more than 142,000 votes were unaccounted for due to the extra 0.01 per cent, with results not indicating the total number of registered voters, the total number of votes cast and the total number of votes rejected.

Cherera, Nyangaya, Masit and Wanderi claimed Chebukati had conducted the election as though he was the National Returning Officer, a non-existent position, and that his role in declaring the results that were not approved by a plenary of all seven commissioners, renders them unconstitutional. The four, however, ate humble pie after the Supreme Court upheld President William Ruto’s election win and dismissed their claims.

While the Cherera, Nyangaya and Wanderi opted to resign after the 2022 election in an apparent move to safeguard their gratuity, Masit has insisted on facing the tribunal chaired by Justice Aggrey Muchelule.

And like in the aftermath of the 2017 polls, early this year, Raila and his allies planned a series of protest rallies to push for Chebukati’s removal and reforms at the IEBC. But the planned protests fizzled out after Raila left the country to attend a US conference in his capacity as African Union’s special envoy for infrastructure.

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