Days numbered for electoral team

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020 00:00 |
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, flanked by commissioners Yusuf Guliye (left) and Boya Molu, addresses a news conference at Anniversary Towers, Nairobi, on April 20, 2018. Photo/PD/FILE

Noah Cheploen @cheploennoah

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report unveiled yesterday by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga proposes a radical overhaul of the Wafula Chebukati-led Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

In a bid to cure the acrimony that stemmed from the hotly contested 2017 presidential election and ensure such conflicts don’t recur, the report calls for the removal of all the current commissioners and establishment of a new team.

The new team of commissioners, the report says, will take charge of the next general election, meaning the door has been slammed shut for Chebukati and his team, that is, if the new changes are passed by Parliament.

The report presented to the President and Raila at Kisii State Lodge says the changes are necessary in order to enhance IEBC’s capacity to conduct free and fair elections.

Next General Election

“Remove all the current commissioners and establish a new commission for the next general election,” the report proposes. 

Raila has often called for the disbandment of the commission as part of far-reaching electoral reforms.

Unlike in the current situation where only lawyers are allowed to apply for the chairmanship position, BBI wants this requirement scrapped, noting that it makes the position a preserve for lawyers.

It also opens up the way for professionals in other fields to head IEBC with the minimum requirement being 15 years’ experience in a senior managerial level.

Notably, the report also seeks to address the fierce rivalry between the chairman  and secretary as was seen between Chebukati and Ezra Chiloba.

The conflict between Chebukati and Chiloba, who was then IEBC Secretary and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), increased with the bad blood between the two playing out in public.

Chiloba was later sacked a few months after Commissioner Roselyn Akombe fled to the US as cracks in the commission threatened to derail the elections with tensions in the country reaching fever pitch.

The report says that law should be changed so that the chairman also becomes the Chief Executive Officer “so that he is not undermined by the secretary who is currently the CEO” adding that the changes are necessary to smooth running of the commission.

Some of the key changes include a proposal to have all IEBC staff subjected to a three-year term that can only be renewed once to allow the commission to chart its own direction without being a captive of the secretariat.

If the changes are adapted, the hammer would also fall on Returning Officers (ROs) with their terms of employment shifting from permanent to part-time basis. 

“Hire all Returning Officers through a system similar to that of hiring commissioners,” says the report.

And in an interesting move, BBI has also opened the door for political parties to participate in the appointment of IEBC commissioners, saying this is going to give the electoral body the much-needed political support and goodwill.

National unity

President Kenyatta and Raila gave the BBI Committee a 9-point agenda to work around in a bid to foster national unity and address perennial electoral violence. One of this is the issue of divisive elections.

“Elections in Kenya have become a curse,” the report says. 

“One year before every general election, Kenya becomes tense, unsafe and economic activities stops,” it notes.

The report underscores the need for political players and contestants to support the electoral body saying this will go a long way in helping them deliver credible elections.

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