Kenya: Raila calls for anti-Ruto rallies over fate of four IEBC commissioners

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Tuesday, 29 November 2022 11:56

Raila Odinga speaking on 24 November 2022 (photo: @RailaOdinga)

Kenya’s veteran politician Raila Odinga says he will lead major national rallies to defend the four besieged Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioners facing dismissal by parliament over their rejection of the August presidential election results that declared William Ruto as winner.

Raila says the first rally will be held in Nairobi on Wednesday and will later move to other regions of Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu and Kakamega.

Raila has held meetings with his political supporters to seek their views on the push by Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza coalition to impeach the commissioners.

“We cannot accept the commissioners to be sent away and impose on Kenyans a user-friendly commission,” said Raila.

In response to the calls, Ruto has condemned the planned demonstrations saying: “I don’t think holding demonstrations and asking Kenyans to do whatever they want them to do is part of holding the government accountable.”

How we got here

On the last day of announcing the presidential results in August, the IEBC commissioners – Juliana Cherera (vice chairperson), Francis Wanderi, Justus Nyang’aya and Irene Masit – rejected the final presidential results declared by the chairman, Wafula Chebukati, and termed the tallying and verification process “opaque”.

Last week, the Parliamentary Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, which is dominated by Ruto’s MPs and boycotted by Raila’s representatives, said the fate of the four commissioners had been sealed.

The petitions were filed on different occasions by three individuals and one party, which all alleged to be close political associates of President Ruto. They are: Reverend  Dennis Ndwiga Nthumbi, Geoffrey Lang’at, and Steve Jerry Owuor, and the Republican Party (affiliate of the leading Kenya Kwanza coalition).

They want the IEBC Commissioners kicked out of office on grounds of violation of the Constitution, gross misconduct, and incompetence for rejecting the presidential results.

Twitter wars

As the hearing over the commissioners proceeded, President Ruto and Raila engaged in a bitter feud on Twitter over the fate of the electoral officials.

Ruto criticised Raila describing him as one of the “lords of impunity, who destroyed oversight institutions during the last administration”.

“The lords of impunity, who destroyed oversight institutions using the handshake fraud, should allow parliament to hold rogue officials who put the nation in danger by subverting the democratic will of the people to be held to account. New order is RULE of LAW not wishes of big men,” Ruto said on Twitter.

In response, Raila said on Twitter: “There is due process and natural justice, things aren’t just done at the whims of the executive. The rule of law must prevail and not your jungle laws that you want to institute so as to subjugate Kenyans to a conveyor belt system of elections come 2027. We shall not relent.”

This latest development is a continuation of a long political process after the August election. According to Javas Bigambo, a Nairobi-based political analyst, it will take a long time for the divided country to heal.

“[Raila] Odinga is showing his political relevance, he wants to show that he did not lose the election,” he tells The Africa Report.

Legal removal of the IEBC commissioners

According to Article 251 of the Constitution, a member of an independent commission may be removed from office for the following reasons:

  • Serious violation of the Constitution
  • Physical or mental incapacity to perform the functions of office
  • Incompetence
  • Bankruptcy

Furthermore, after a petition is presented  to the National Assembly setting out the alleged reasons for such a removal, parliament must consider the petition and, if satisfied, send it off to the President. At that point, the president may suspend the member in question or office-holder and must appoint a tribunal for further investigation.

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