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IEBC to be constituted anew to curb fights over elections

By Eric Wainaina
Monday, September 28th, 2020
Fights over elections. Photo/File
In summary
    • Though with three commissioners, the electoral body  is properly constituted, there are concerns because it does not have a quorum which should have at least five members, and therefore, their decisions might not be binding.
    • This has led to concerns among experts and political class that any delay in filling up the positions “would be dangerous” since the replacement might happen in a few months to the General Election and the new commissioners could be ill  prepared.

Eric Wainaina @EWainaina

 The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will be constituted afresh before the next General-Eection.

 That is part of the envisaged reforms aimed at ending chaotic elections should the final proposals by Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force to review the current Constitution be adopted.  

The BBI task force, in its final report drafted as an Amendment Bill for 2020 and seen by the People Daily, has recommended a raft of changes, which will see 73 clauses of the current supreme law either repealed or amended.

Part of the changes that, once passed, will automatically render all seven positions in the commission vacant.

Other changes drafted in the Bill include expansion of the Executive to include a powerful Prime Minister and two deputies to ensure inclusivity, restructuring Parliament, giving more powers to the Senate by removing the role of hiring of State officials from the lower House, streamlining contentious sharing of revenue to enhancing accountability.

The Garrissa Senator Yusuf Haji-led team has proposed a mechanism of recruiting new commissioners in two months after the adoption of the recommendations in a manner that ensures several parties are involved to rebuild confidence in the institution that has twice been accused by the Opposition of bungling elections leading to political chaos.

In the changes that could see current chairman Wafula Chebukati exit before 2022,  existing commissioners will be vetted afresh by a panel to be created by the President to determine if they are suitable to be retained or will be sacked.

Vacant positions

“The vacant positions in the membership of the IEBC shall be filled within six days of the commencement of this Act (the BBI Bill).

Despite Article 251 of the Constitution giving them security of tenure, within 30 days from the commencement of this Act, the members of the electoral body who were in office on the commencement date shall be vetted to determine their suitability to continue serving in accordance with the values set out in Articles 10 and Chapter Six,” the recommendations.

The much-touted campaign to review the 2010 Constitution anchored on the BBI is expected to kick off immediately after the final report is unveiled by Preside Uhuru Kenyatta and his Handshake partner Raila Odinga, with some of the key changes such as expansion of the Executive expected to take effect before or during the 2022 general elections.

BBI was focusing on ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, divisive elections, safety and security, corruption, shared prosperity and responsibilities and rights as the nine key pointers affecting the country’s fabric, with electoral reforms being critical.

On Friday, Raila said implementation of the final report yet to be made public will happen soon and hinted on a bruising and a bare-knuckles competition with its critics who he described as “dark forces working hard to cause fear and disharmony, corrupting people with stolen money and beating the drums of war in a bid to scuttle change.”

“The BBI report is around the corner. The forces that have always opposed change; the voices of impunity that thrive on corruption and outright lies, have already lined up against the report.

In the months ahead, we are going into a confrontation with the beneficiaries of the proceeds of corruption who are arraigned against our agenda for a radical socio-economic transformation, job creation, and equitable distribution of prosperity. We must win that war,”Raila said.

There have been attempts to make changes in the commission by parliament through the IEBC Act 2019, sponsored by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee and other legislations by Kiambu Town MP Jude Njomo and another by Ndaragwa’s Jeremiah Kioni, which are yet to see the light of the day.

IEBC, which presented its views to the BBI task force on February 14, through a 16-page memorandum, had seven commissioners, but  has been operating with three- Chebukati (chairman) and two Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu after four others resigned.

Just days before the October 26, 2017 repeat election, Commissioner Roselyn Akombe resigned and fled the country saying she had received death threats.

In April 2018, three others, led by vice chair Consolata Nkatha, Paul Kurgat and Margaret Mwachanya resigned, and accused Chebukati of failing in offering leadership. Their replacements are yet to be picked.

The commission has so much lined up in its tray, which may require serious discussions such as reviewing of the electoral boundaries, possible referendum as well as preparing for the next general election.

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