Kenya: Ruto appoints team to recruit new IEBC officials, opposition cries foul

By Victor Abuso

Posted on Thursday, 2 March 2023 13:04
Kenya President William Ruto has appointed a committee to select a whole new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission team. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

President William Ruto has appointed a seven-member selection panel to recruit a new board for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), amidst calls to reach a consensus with the opposition.

“Ruto should not dismiss the opposition, they are key stakeholders in this process,” Suba Churchill, executive director of the Kenya National Civil Society Centre, tells The Africa Report.

The president playing a huge role in appointing electoral officials is a move that does not inspire public trust and confidence in the election management body, says Churchill.

Vacancies at IEBC

Ruto made his selection panel announcement two weeks after he declared that there were six positions open at the electoral body, six months after the election.

The vacancies opened at the IEBC following the retirement of Wafula Chebukati, former chairman of the electoral agency, together with other two commissioners Yusuf Guliye and Boya Molu, whose six-year tenure at the helm of the electoral agency ended in January.

Former vice chairperson Juliana Cherera and commissioners Justus Nyang’aya and Francis Wanderi resigned after Ruto formed a tribunal to investigate their conduct in the August 2022 general election. They had rejected the electoral results that handed Ruto the presidency, calling the election count opaque.

Ruto suspended them just days after his September swearing-in ceremony.

New selection panel

The president announced the selection panel this week. It consists of Evans Misati James, Benson Ngugi Njeri, Nelson Makanda, Fatuma Saman, Bethuel Sugut, Novince Euralia Atieno and Charity Kisotu.

As per electoral law, these members represent the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, Law Society of Kenya, Parliamentary Service Commission, Public Service Commission and the Political Parties Liaison Committee.

The president’s announcement came just hours after he received a report from the tribunal he formed. The report implicated Irene Masit, another commissioner, and recommended her removal from office for violating the constitution.

“This will serve as a lesson to state officers who fail to adhere to the constitution while in office,” he said.

Opposition rejects panel, calls for reforms

Opposition leader Raila Odinga opposes Ruto’s move to appoint the selection panel, calling for political talks with the president to reform the electoral body.

We cannot allow Ruto to appoint his commission. He wants to have seven Chebukatis so that he can control them

Raila maintains that former IEBC chief Chubakati was influenced to steal his votes in favour of Ruto. He also accuses Ruto of planning to have new commissioners that will favour him during the 2027 polls.

“We cannot allow Ruto to appoint his commission. He wants to have seven Chebukatis so that he can control them,” he said.

The Azimio la Umoja coalition leader is also pushing for the reinstatement of the four former commissioners who rejected Ruto’s win. He has suggested that Kenya should adapt the US-style devolved electoral system to increase credibility and transparency of the election process.

“Kenyans may not vote in future elections, because they believe their vote may never count, if the system remains the same,” he added.

Raila has also called for a mass demonstration in March to protest the high cost of living and lack of reforms in the government, including within the IEBC.

One possibility could be to put the recruitment of new IEBC commissioners on hold, says Churchill.

“Kenyans don’t want to experience another 2007, when the then one-sided electoral agency caused the bloodiest political crisis,” says the head of the Kenya National Civil Society Centre.

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