Four “breakaway” commissioners Tuesday beat a hasty retreat from their initial disagreement with their chairperson, as the electoral agency closed ranks after weeks of a bitter falling-out dating back to the declaration of the presidential election results on August 15.
The four Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials backed a statement issued on Monday by chairperson Wafula Chebukati, in a clear indication that they were ready to mend fences.
IEBC vice-chairperson Juliana Cherera and commissioners Irene Masit, Francis Wanderi and Justus Nyang’aya supported the statement that maintained that the electoral agency had conducted free, fair and transparent elections on August 9.
“We also state here that we agree with the statement of the chairperson of the commission, which was sent to the media yesterday. We wish to reiterate that we stand by the rule of law and statutes that promote effectiveness of the work of the commission,” said the four in a joint statement.
Respect the decision
They also said they would respect the decision of the Supreme Court that upheld the declaration of Dr William Ruto as President-elect.
“After the Supreme Court of Kenya made its ruling yesterday on the presidential election petition, particularly with regard to our role as commissioners, we wish to convey our appreciation to the honourable judges and confirm that we respect their collective decisions,” added the statement.
“We wish to convey our appreciation to the Honourable judges of the Supreme Court of Kenya and confirm that we respect their collective decision,” statement reads.
At a press briefing on Monday, hours after the unanimous verdict by the Supreme Court, Mr Chebukati said the poll agency had been vindicated after the apex court’s finding that the IEBC conducted a free, fair and transparent August 9 elections.
Mr Chebukati explained that the IEBC had put in place a robust and transparent election infrastructure to ensure that the votes cast in the elections were counted, electronically transmitted, verified, tallied, announced and declared in line with Articles 81 and 86 of the Constitution.
On August 15, 2022, the four commissioners rejected the presidential election results that Mr Chebukati announced and said publicly that they could not take ownership of the announced results.
They had also complained that they were sidelined in the appointment of returning officers and blind-sided on the arrival of the first batch of ballot papers.
This led to a bitter falling-out within IEBC, with two camps emerging, one led by Ms Cherera and Mr Chebukati leading the other, in what seems to be a battle between the newcomers to the commission and the old guard.
Mr Chebukati’s camp had commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu, as well as IEBC chief executive officer, Mr Marjan Hussein Marjan.
They argued that the chairperson announced the final results without their knowledge and that they did not approve the results.
Also, they distanced themselves from the results, and that they cannot be part of the results that were announced while they were kept in the dark.
In their petition that was dismissed, the four commissions alleged that Mr Chebukati ran the affairs of the commission independently without involving them.
But in the verdict that was delivered by the Chief Justice Martha Koome, the four failed to prove that they were kept in dark, and that the chairperson carried out his roles in accordance to the constitution.
“Ultimately, notwithstanding the divisions apparent between the Chairperson and four Commissioners, the Court was satisfied that IEBC carried out the verification, tallying, and declaration of the Presidential Election results in accordance with Article 138 (3) (c) and (10) of the Constitution,” CJ Koome said.
Following the court’s ruling, Mr Chebukati said that the four are at liberty to do as they wish, and that no one was after them for expressing their freedom.
The four were defended by the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga, terming their step as heroic.
The judgment from the court has accelerated the activities of the transition committee, which has declared Tuesday 13 as the public holiday when the President-elect and his deputy will be sworn in.
On Monday, however, Mr Chebukati skirted around the issue of the four “breakaway” commissioners, only saying the commission has not chased anyone away.
“As a commission, we follow the law and it is up to them and their conscience what they want to do going forward. We have not chased away anyone,” he said.