Date: 17 January 2017 16:26
Parliament on Tuesday approved a new team to take over the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and steer the country through the August elections.
The nomination of the seven-member-team led by Chairman Wafula Chebukati was approved during a special sitting. Some MPs opposed the team but a majority of the legislators gave their support for Mr Chebukati and the six commissioners.
Claims of regional imbalance emerged, with Narok MP Moitalel ole Kenta and his Kajiado Central counterpart Memusi Kanchori claiming that Mr Tokero ole Kina, a nominee from the region who had beaten Mr Chebukati in the interviews, was not picked for chairman of the electoral body.
Mr Kanchori claimed that a man by the name Kasim Shabaan had raised issues touching on Mr Chebukati’s integrity.
“Given that the country has experienced violence in the past on account of elections, the least we wanted is an individual without any blemish to chair the IEBC. That cannot be said of Mr Chebukati,” said Mr Kanchori.
However, his assertion was challenged by Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa, who said that no complaints were forwarded to the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee. He added that Mr Chebukati had passed the integrity test.
Mr Kenta said the Maasai community had been marginalised, noting that they would “answer back” during the elections. He added that there was no justification for leaving out Mr Kina.
But Leader of Majority Aden Duale defended President Kenyatta’s selection of Mr Chebukati, saying it was his discretion to pick among the two names forwarded to him.
DELIVER CREDIBLE ELECTIONS
“The law provides that the President chooses from two names for chairman and nine from which to pick six commissioners. It does not say anything about marks that are scored by a candidate, gender or regional balance. When you stand to oppose based on ethnic representation, it is a sad day for Kenya,” added Mr Duale.
The majority leader said what was required for the new team to deliver credible, free and independent elections was budgetary support and safeguarding of their independence.
He added that the new team should be allowed to work and not hounded out of office when differences on their being in office emerge.
Mr Duale also defended the new team, saying it represented the face of Kenya in terms of regional balance and had highly qualified individuals including academicians.
Kipipiri MP Samuel Gichigi said the new team should move with speed and start by cleaning the voters’ register and ensure the necessary preparations are in place so that the elections are not postponed.
Following the approvals during the special sitting, since MPs are still on long recess that ends later this month, what remains is forwarding of the names to President Kenyatta, who will oversee the swearing in ceremony of the team to replace the outgoing commissioners.
The new commissioners are Dr Paul Kurgat, Mr Boya Molu, Prof Abdi Guliye, Dr Roselyn Akombe, Margaret Mwachanya and Ms Consolata Nkatha Bucha Maina.
Mr Chebukati told MPs that as the face of the commission, he would be careful with his utterances given the likelihood of being misinterpreted.
Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chair Samuel Chepkong’a said the new team would be in office immediately it is approved and oversee the second mass voter registration, which began on Monday.
The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee did not raise any objections in their report approving the nominees even though some reservations were raised during vetting by the committee.
“Suitability issues” were raised particularly for Mr Chebukati and Ms Maina.
The report tabled in the House on Tuesday by Githunguri MP Njoroge Baiya, a member of the committee, said it had similar “findings” for all commissioners. The committee was of the view that all the nominees had the “requisite qualifications and experience”.
During the approval hearings by the committee at County Hall, Parliament Buildings, last week, some of the nominees were found to have the requisite qualifications and relevant experience compared to others.
The same was observed regarding their professional and public life, with perceived political bias, professional negligence, academic qualifications, among other questions touching on suitability in steering the electoral body in managing the August 8 General Election.
The committee was of the view that all the nominees had the “requisite qualifications and experience and no records and information availed to the committee implicating him in any issues that may lead to lack of integrity have been availed.”
The new team will have little time on their hands to build the necessary confidence and trust in the ability of the commission to conduct a free and fair elections, especially following the disputed 2013 elections in which the current commission bungled, including late procurement of electronic materials which failed on Election Day.
With the opposition Cord demanding that the elections be fully electronic, the new look commission, which is leaner than the nine member team that is paving the way for them, will have little room for failure.