Azimio gives conditions for audit of 2022 election

ODM leader Raila Odinga cuts a cake to make his birthday in Mombasa on January 7, 2023. He is with Governor Abdulswamad Nassir, County Assembly Speaker Aharub Khatri, Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo and other leaders. Azimio says President Ruto should not name commissioners to the election audit team.

The opposition Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition wants President William Ruto’s administration to meet certain demands before an audit of last year’s General Election is conducted.

While the coalition insists that it backs the audit, its leaders say they would only support a proposal which creates a commission of inquiry that allows an inclusive membership.

The commission of inquiry should be run by a foreign judge or lawyer, Azimio insists. Parliament should scrutinise those selected to lead it and that is should debate the eventual report.

The coalition, which lost the presidential election to Dr Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza alliance, said President Ruto should not appoint members of the commission.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition leaders say if the intention of the audit is to fix the problem at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), President Ruto should not single-handedly appoint the commissioners.

The opposition alliance says the chairman of the commission should be a foreigner who commands respect internationally and must be accepted by the two sides of the political divide.

The individual, Azimio says, should be aware that his reputation is at stake should he bungle the process and Kenyans find themselves talking about the same electoral issues in 2027.

Azimio wants members of the commission to have an equal number of representatives from its coalition with those from Kenya Kwanza.

Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua told the Sunday Nation that leaving one side of the political divide from the commission would be a gimmick.

“The best way to do it is to have a commission of inquiry made up of eminent persons with political parties appointing an equal number of representatives to it. This commission should be chaired by a respected international figure,” Mr Wambua said.

Apart from members appointed by the opposition and Kenya Kwanza into the commission, Azimio wants other stakeholders like journalists, teachers, lawyers and religious leaders included.

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) chairman John Mbadi said the best way to carry out the audit is through a parliamentary initiative.

He added that he has initiated the process through a motion yet to be ratified by the House Business Committee for debate.

 “Parliament should form a select committee made up of an equal number of members from both coalitions. Any other avenue will not yield results because Kenyans, including religious leaders, are partisan,” Mr Mbadi said.

“You cannot tell me that the President will appoint members of a commission of inquiry to audit the elections. He is an interested party just like Mr Raila Odinga as they participated in the vote. Parliament is the only avenue that can initiate the investigations. Kenyans need to know what really happened.”

The nominated MP added that his motion calling on the formation of a select committee to audit the General Election has not been ratified by the House Business Committee.

He said National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula promised to call a meeting with him over it.

“I’m waiting for the Speaker’s call. I’m flexible and can make changes to the motion because this analysis is for posterity,” Mr Mbadi said.

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni supported calls for the commission of inquiry. He also said its members should not be named by the President.

“We must go the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG) way on anything to do with elections. We should not depart from that,” Mr Kioni said.

Institutional legitimacy

The former Ndaragwa MP said Parliament is already captured by the Executive and cannot be trusted to steer the process and give Kenyans the changes needed at the electoral commission.

“This is an important process that cannot be entrusted to Parliament. The Judiciary cannot do it too. We all saw the way the Judiciary treated the issues we raised casually and with disdain. All parties must come together and have a say in electoral processes,” Mr Kioni said.

“There is a need for an overhaul of the IEBC. We cannot approach the 2027 elections with this commission.”

National Assembly Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi said the audit should be done by a bi-partisan parliamentary select committee.

Mr Wandayi said the committee should have a broad mandate to look at issues that cropped up during the August 9, 2022, General Election.

“Approaching it through any other way will be futile. Parliament, whether captured or not, still remains the best institution with legitimacy to do that as it is made up of representatives of the people,” Mr Wandayi said.

Following the disputed 2007 presidential election that plunged the country into deadly violence, the Independent Review Commission (IREC), chaired by South African judge Johann Kriegler, was set up to investigate the vote and report its findings and recommendations within six months.

The commission examined Kenya’s electoral process, including tallying and the role of political parties, observers, media and civil society.

The findings included weaknesses and inconsistencies in Kenya’s legal framework and management system for elections.

The report pointed out that the then Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) lacked the independence and functional capacity to discharge its constitutional mandate because of weakness in the composition and appointment of members.

The ECK’s institutional legitimacy and public confidence in the professional credibility of its commissioners and staff were impaired, the report said.

The team added that there was widespread bribery, vote-buying, intimidation and ballot-stuffing, which were compounded by defective data tabulation, transmission and tallying.

Kriegler’s team called for the replacement of the ECK with a new name, composed of a lean policy-making and supervisory board selected transparently and inclusively. 

It urged the adoption of a new voter registration system and the necessary constitutional and other legal amendments.

Leaders allied to Dr Ruto want a commission of inquiry formed to audit the August presidential poll immediately after the conclusion of hearings of the tribunal investigating the conduct of four IEBC commissioners.

They want the investigation to cover events surrounding the declaration of the results, the divisions in the IEBC, “reluctance by police” to address the chaos at Bomas of Kenya and other issues.