A former commissioner with the electoral agency has recounted how four dissenting colleagues used to “secretly” meet at Anniversary Towers in Nairobi, even as he provided more details about events that preceded the declaration of Dr William Ruto as President-elect.
Prof Abdi Guliye said Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairperson Wafula Chebukati, two other commissioners and chief executive officer Marjan Hussein Marjan went into hiding immediately after announcing the presidential results.
Prof Guliye claimed that the four dissenting commissioners, known as the Cherera Four, used to meet frequently at former vice-chairperson Juliana Cherera’s office. He alleged that, at some point, Ms Cherera relocated to a new office.
“We were not bothered by the meetings at the time. Ms Cherera had an office on the sixth floor but decided to move,” said Prof Guliye. He was testifying before the Justice Aggrey Muchelule-led tribunal that is investigating allegations of misconduct against suspended commissioner Irene Masit. Prof Guliye said IEBC officials went on with preparations for the August 9 elections without any problems until the last day of the presidential results verification process.
But with hindsight, he added, a press conference the Cherera Four held at Serena Hotel in Nairobi showed that there were other games at play the other commissioners were not aware of.
He said it took only 20 minutes for the Cherera Four to be whisked away from the Bomas of Kenya to Serena Hotel and the fact that they concurred with individuals who allegedly approached IEBC in order to pressurise the commissioners to vary the results spoke volumes.
“The incident looked like something that had been pre-arranged because, how do you come from Bomas to Serena to a ready podium and [journalists in attendance] if it was not pre-arranged?” Prof Guliye posed.
“We were part of the verification process all through and that’s why we were all shocked when they started disowning the results at Serena,” he added.
Prof Guliye said all was going well at IEBC even during the tallying and verification process until they started receiving visitors at Bomas.
He said the first visitors came at 3am on August 15, 2022 led by former Cabinet secretary Raphael Tuju and Mr Amos Wako, who allegedly asked them to slow down the tallying and verification process. Prof Guliye told the tribunal that they were asked to put the interests of the country first and “look at the bigger picture” by making decisions in a certain manner to ensure the country holds together.
He claimed that the visitors wanted IEBC to announce Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party leader Raila Odinga as winner, a request they rejected, insisting on abiding by the Constitution.
“I remember saying we didn’t know the results and such a discussion wasn’t welcome. We didn’t need to discuss winning or losing as we didn’t know who was winning or losing,” he said.
Later, a delegation comprising members of the National Security Advisory Council (NCAS) and led by the Principal Administrative Secretary in the Office of the President, Mr Kennedy Kihara, arrived at Bomas at 10am and met the commissioners at 2pm at the CEO’s boardroom.
He claimed that the delegation threatened the commissioners that, should they declare results in favour of Dr Ruto, the country would burn and the blood of Kenyans would be on their hands.
Prof Guliye said NSAC wanted the commission to ensure there was a run-off if they could not announce Mr Odinga as the winner but the chairperson declined, saying, he would uphold the Constitution. Failing in their mission, the NSAC delegation left, he said.
“The tone of the message was threatening as we were told there were already skirmishes and there would be a bloodbath. We were being forced to think in a particular direction,” Prof Guliye said
He claimed that Ms Masit said the sentiments by the NSAC delegation needed serious consideration and she supported their request.
“It wasn’t right for any commissioner to support any candidate as that’s against the law,” said Mr Guliye. However, Ms Masit’s lawyer, Mr Donald Kipkorir, asked Prof Guliye which results his client wanted modified yet there were no results at that point.
He further asked whether Ms Masit spoke during the 3am meetin, if fellow dissenter Justus Nyang’aya was present and why they did not take any minutes of the said meeting.
“Which results did you want my client to support yet you hadn't published the results in its entirety?” Mr Kipkorir posed.
Mr Marjan later presented a printout of the final results and handed over a copy to each commissioner with a debate ensuing in light of the request by the NSAC delegation.
He alleged that the Cherera Four protested that results should be changed, wanting the commission to moderate the results with Ms Masit and Mr Francis Wanderi specific that the results be pushed towards a run-off.
“Her position was like the other three, that, at the very least, we should force a run-off with the top two squaring it off [in order to] let the country remain stable as a win-win situation. The four wanted the difference of 233,211 votes to be [counted as] rejected votes to force a run-off as the margin was very close,” he said.
Former commissioner Boya Molu eachoed Prof Guliye’s sentiments, saying, they were asked to force run-off or declare Mr Odinga as the winner so as not to jeopardise the stability of the country.
“The four sided with the NSAC team and Ms Masit said we need to moderate results in line with the NSAC delegation’s request,” said Mr Molu.
“But we made it clear that our role as commissioners is not to moderate results or bend the will of the people. We were never asked such requests before in the six years I was at IEBC,” he added.
The differing stance led to a split within the electoral agency with the Chebukati-leaning side insisting that they wouldn’t be party to any scheme to sabotage the will of the people and that the 233,211 voices must be heard.
Further, Mr Chebukati said he would only announce verified results. This led to a boardroom disagreement, with the Cherera Four remaining behind as the others proceeded to the tallying centre to declare the results.
Lawyer Danstan Omari wanted to be enjoined in the proceedings, saying, Azimio had been adversely mentioned and should be accorded a right of reply. The tribunal will rule on the application today.
Mr Chebukati and NCIC chairperson Reverend Samuel Kobia will appear before the tribunal today as the last witnesses.