Speed up enactment of election laws – Bishops

Thursday, September 16th, 2021 00:00 |
Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops chairman Archbishop Martin Kivuva (left) with his colleagues address the press at Russel House in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/ALEX MBURU

Catholic bishops yesterday demanded that reforms in the electoral system be enacted in the next three months to guarantee a free, fair and credible General-Election.

The bishops, under the aegis of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) said there was need for immediate legal reforms to the electoral laws to build public confidence in the electoral process. 

In a statement read by   KCCB chair Archbishop Martin Kivuva, the clergymen pointed out that the judgement in the presidential petition filed in 2017 identified the need for legal reforms as crucial for free and fair elections. 

He pointed out that one of the issues identified in the judgement as challenges in the electoral process was the late amendment of laws affecting elections. 

“It is, therefore, paramount that Parliament and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) should act quickly to ensure that all necessary electoral reforms are carried out by December 2021,” said Kivuva. 

The clergymen, however, maintained their position that any far-reaching constitutional amendments, especially those requiring a referendum, should only be addressed after the August 2022 general elections. 

They noted that following the recent Court of Appeal judgment on the Referendum Bill, Kenyans should view the verdict as a huge step towards the entrenchment of constitutionalism and the rule of law.  

BBI ruling 

With this, they urged all the arms of government to respect the rule of law and exercise sobriety as they carry on with their respective complementary roles in accordance with the Constitution. 

“We must desist from concentrating too much on the fate or outcome of the BBI process at the expense of addressing other matters affecting Kenyans,” added Kivuva. 

They added that regardless of the ruling of the Supreme Court on BBI and the Referendum Bill, all efforts and resources allocated to IEBC should be directed towards preparations for the 2022 general elections.  

“As we have already stated, it is not feasible at the moment to consider any referendum before the forthcoming general elections,” said Kivuva. 

The bishops maintained that the August 2022 general elections must proceed as scheduled, warning that postponing the elections will only heighten political tension, anxiety and unrest. 

They said the government and the IEBC should come out authoritatively and confirm the date for the next elections and ensure that all constitutional requirements for holding the elections are put in place. 

Build trust 

At the same time, while commending the recent appointment of four new IEBC commissioners, the bishops acknowledged that a fully constituted electoral agency is expected to strengthen the electoral system and build public confidence in its work. 

However, they lamented that the body continues to suffer from a trust deficit saying calls from some politicians to replace IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and three of the old commissioners are uncalled for. 

They noted that the ongoing exchanges on the issue is unhealthy and risks derailing the process of holding free and fair polls. 

They argued that now that the IEBC is fully constituted, the commission must move with speed and put in place in good time the necessary systems and processes to ensure free and fair elections.  

Further, they want the process of hiring a new chief executive to start to ensure no room is left for doubting the competency and integrity of the polls agency. 

“As it stands, the IEBC still does not have a substantive Chief Executive Officer less than a year to the next general elections,” said Kivuva. 

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