Azimio MPs issue ultimatum after IEBC boss targeted in crackdown

IEBC Deputy CEO Ruth Kulundu

 Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Deputy CEO Ruth Kulundu. 

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Legislators allied to Azimio la Umoja coalition on Wednesday gave the electoral agency 48 hours to rescind the decision to interdict the Deputy Commission Secretary of Operations, Ms Ruth Kulundu, or face unspecified action. Ms Kulundu was interdicted in a crackdown of senior electoral commission staff alleged to have aided the operations of four commissioners who disputed the presidential election outcome that declared President William Ruto the winner.

Led by MPs Opiyo Wandayi and Sabina Chege, the lawmakers have accused the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) of acting in total disregard of the law and harassing officers who perform their duties according to the Constitution. 

While addressing journalists during their induction at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, the MPs also told IEBC chair Wafula Chebukati to proceed on terminal leave and stop "creating unnecessary confusion and intimidating staff".

IEBC chief executive officer Marjan Hussein Marjan had earlier reportedly written to Ms Kulundu -- the deputy CEO -- a show cause letter over alleged misconduct.

Ms Kulundu neither confirmed nor denied being interdicted by the commission, instead referring the Nation to her boss – Mr Marjan.

“I’d rather you talk to the CEO...just talk to the CEO,” she said when reached for comment.

Mr Marjan and Mr Chebukati, however, did not respond to queries by the Nation. Efforts to reach them on phone were also futile as they went unanswered.

Ms Kulundu previously worked as IEBC's Regional Elections Coordinator from 2010-2017 and later as Siaya County Elections Manager. Mr Chebukati described her as an officer with 12-years’ experience in management of elections during her appointment in March.

Sour relationship with bosses

Ms Kulundu has had a sour relationship with her bosses since the disputed presidential election, where she was accused of convening a commission plenary meeting on August 26 without the approval of the CEO.

The plenary turned out to be the venue for discussions involving the four dissenting commissioners - Vice Chairperson Juliana Cherera, commissioners Irene Massit, Justus Nyang’aya, and Francis Wanderi. It is based on this plenary meeting that IEBC produced two set of lawyers at the Supreme Court hearing of the presidential petition between Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga and IEBC. 

Lawyers Paul Muite and Issah Mansur turned up in court to represent the four dissenting commissioners while former Attorney-General Prof Githu Muigai led the legal consels representing IEBC and Mr Chebukati.

Bad blood

The current actions by the commission’s leadership against alleged associates of the four commissioners points to bad blood at IEBC amid a legal tussle over the control of the electoral body pending retirement of Mr Chebukati and two other commissioners – Prof Abdi Guliye and Mr Boya Molu.

Already, Farmers Party, which is in president Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance, has submitted to Parliament a petition to have the four dissenting commissioners of the IEBC ousted for allegedly attempting to sabotage the August General Election.

According to the party, the petition dated September 9, it accuses the four of gross misconduct and violation of the law.

“Farmers Party has presented to the National Assembly, in line with Article 251 of the Constitution, a petition for the removal of 4 commissioners of the IEBC following the attempt by the said Commissioners to sabotage an election process as witnessed on 15th August 2022, at Bomas of Kenya,” read the statement.

“The petition by Farmers Party expresses the conduct of the commissioners as being a gross violation of the constitution and a breach of their oath, which denies the four commissioners their legitimacy to hold the state offices as commissioners of the IEBC.”