Die cast for poll chiefs as MPs finalise probe

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022 05:55 | By
Move to probe four IEBC commissioners ill-timed
IEBC Commissioners led by Vice-Chairperson Juliana Cherera (centre) Francis Wanderi (left) , Irene Cherop and Justus Nyang’aya (right)  during a press briefing in Nairobi on Tuesday August 16, 2022 when they disputed the presidential results announced  by their chairman Wafula Chebukati  at Bomas of Kenya. PHOTO/File

The die appeared cast for the four embattled Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) bosses after a parliamentary committee decided to compile its report without their input.

Members of the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee(JLAC) said they would go ahead and prepare their report, accusing the commissioners of employing delaying tactics to frustrate investigations into their conduct during the contested August 9 General Election.

Yesterday’s session was characterised by spirited attempts by the lawyers of the commissioners to stop the investigation.

But JLAC chairperson George Murugara (Tharaka) ruled that his team would not entertain any more extensions to accommodate the commissioners’ wishes.

“Having closed the matter as all the responses have been taken and will be taken into consideration, this committee cannot extend time any more as the Speaker has been magnanimous enough to grant us three days to consider and produce a report,” he ruled, setting the stage for the committee to compile its report without any further reference to the commissioners led by vice chair Juliana Cherera and commissioners Irene Masit, Francis Wanderi and Justus Nyang’aya.

The commissioners disowned the presidential election results declared by IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati. They were also part of the Supreme Court’s petition against the election of William Ruto.

Raila Odinga, who lost the election to Ruto, has defended the commissioners who President Ruto has described as “rogue.” 

If the House team establishes misconduct, it will recommend to the President to set up a tribunal to probe the commissioners.

Yesterday, the committee accused their lawyers of resorting to delaying tactics to frustrate the investigations given JLAC’s strict timelines.

The team has up to tomorrow to conclude the probe and table its report before Parliament proceeds on recess.

Murugara made the ruling after Cherera, Wanderi and Nyang’aya skipped yesterday’s session, during which they were expected to be questioned by the committee. They argued that they were not given adequate time to prepare for the hearings.

They further argued that the Murugara team, which was boycotted by key Azimio MPs, lacked jurisdiction to investigate the matter.

Solid report

The committee said the lawyers were out to derail the proceedings in order to make it impossible for them to table their final report tomorrow.

“Our role is purely investigative... What we are seeking to determine is whether the petition warrants a prima-facie case to warrant a recommendation for the formation of a tribunal,” said Murugara.

He added: “Having closed the matter as all the responses have been taken and those that will be submitted I would like to state that the report that we shall present to Parliament will be very solid and will be done without pressure, intimidation, undue interference and coercion.”

Majority Whip Silvanus Osoro (North Mugirango) accused the lawyers of dwelling on “frivolous” issues to frustrate the probe.

“The counsel are looking at any available tactic to delay the proceedings. If the respondents are serious, they would have availed themselves so that they can give their input on the matter,” said Osoro.

Mukurweini MP John Kaguchia also accused the commissioners of employing delaying tactics in order to stop the proceedings, warning that the petitioners also have a right to be heard.

“I am wondering if the commissioners are putting a lot of effort into stopping the proceedings on technicalities and procedural matters and are not dealing with the substance of the matter. Don’t they think that the petitioners have a right to petition also?” he said.

Kanduyi MP John Makali noted that some of the documents the lawyers for the respondents were demanding were in public domain.

Gatanga MP Wakili Muriu warned the commissioners that the allegations levelled against them would go undefended following their failure to appear before the committee.

This followed submissions by Wanderi’s lawyer Ndoro Gichamba and Jotham Arwa, for Nyang’aya that they would not participate in the proceedings claiming that no fair outcome would emanate from the hearing and that the committee lacked jurisdiction to investigate the matters.

Arwa further cited the committee’s refusal to grant their prayer to cross examine Chebukati.

“Wafula Chebukati confirmed that my client Mr Nyang’aya was at Bomas of Kenya during the meeting with NSAC which is not true. All we are saying is (that) we need to defend ourselves within the law if our request is granted. If this is not done then it will not be us who do not want to defend ourselves. It will be the committee which does not want to give us an opportunity to defend ourselves,” he said.

Chebukati told a press conference that members of the National Security Advisory Council (NSAC) had approached him at Bomas, the national tallying centre, with the aim of overturning Ruto’s victory. The Supreme Court judges reprimanded Chebukati for the claim in their judgement on the petition.

Chebukati claims

Arwa said his appeal for more time was not given while his request for documentation such as CCTV footage to show what his client declared at Bomas as well as request to allow witnesses was not granted.

In his submissions Arwa said his client wanted to cross examine Chebukati for him to shed light on what happened during the declaration of the presidential results.

“Wafula Chebukati is the author of some of the allegations. We requested that we be allowed to cross examine him but this has not been forthcoming. I would have wished that we would have sought court orders to summon Chebukati so that he can appear for cross examination because this committee says he attended certain meetings which he did not,” said Arwa.

Gichamba stated that apart from jurisdiction, the defence was not provided with crucial documents that they requested for adding that the time given to them to present their case was not adequate.

“We sought extra time but this was not provided. In the absence of our demands being met, it would be extremely dangerous to walk into such proceedings without any documentation,” he said.

Cherera’s lawyer Apollo Mboya, who had been given up to yesterday afternoon to appear, failed to show up and instead asked the committee to give him seven days to respond to all the queries in the petitions.

“In the letter dated today 29th November, the counsel for Cherera, Apollo Mboya says that the eight hours given to him are not enough to take instructions and therefore requests for seven days to respond to the matter,” the committee was told.

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