Hiring of IEBC commissioners to go on

Nelson Makanda.

 IEBC selection panel Chair Nelson Makanda.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

The electoral agency selection panel has called for a meeting today just a day after President William Ruto’s team in the now collapsed bi-partisan talks instructed them to proceed with hiring of new commissioners.

The absence of commissioners at the poll body threatens to halt major operations at the critical institution, including parliamentary and ward by-elections, which, according to the constitution, should be conducted within 90 days of declaration of vacancy.

Planned boundary review is also at the heart of the push to conclude recruitment. Dr Nelson Makanda, the chairperson of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) selection panel, told Nation of a meeting this morning before the team can make an announcement about the exercise.

The recruitment of IEBC commissioners has remained in suspension for about three months pending the outcome of a political negotiation entered in April between President Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga. Mr Odinga had demanded a stop to the hiring of new IEBC commissioners as a condition for calling off anti-government protests.

But the opposition formally announced withdrawal from the talks last week citing stonewalling by the ruling Kenya Kwanza side.  “We have called for a meeting tomorrow (Thursday). Let me not say anything for now because we plan to address the press after the meeting,” said Dr Makanda.

A total of 215 applicants had expressed interest in replacing former IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, while another 895 applied for the six vacant commissioner positions. The panel had started shortlisting applicants, ready for interviews.

In a previous interview with Nation, Dr Makanda had indicated that the selection panel mandate can only come to an end if there is a court order or a change in law by Parliament. He had also disclosed that there was no official communication asking them to put the recruitment on hold.

On Wednesday, Kenya Kwanza through its co-chairman George Murugara (Tharaka, UDA), told the Dr Makanda-led team to proceed with hiring new commissioners to replace Mr Chebukati and commissioners Abdi Guliye, Boya Molu, Juliana Cherera, Justus Nyang’aya and Irene Masit.

“The lack of communication and the absence of Azimio members during the talks are clear indications that they lack confidence in the process. However, despite this setback, we remain steadfast in our belief that the IEBC selection process should move forward as planned,” said Mr Murugara.

But the Opposition Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition has issued a fresh warning against unilateral reconstitution of the poll body, suggesting that they would not allow a team constituted at the exclusion of other political players to run the next general elections. Mr Odinga has since dared President William Ruto's camp to proceed with the ongoing recruitment of electoral commissioners, saying there will be no elections with officials only appointed by one side of the political divide.

 Mr Odinga blamed the government for frustrating the talks that were designed to settle the political contest stemming from the August 9 General Elections.

"IEBC is a national institution which is supposed to preside over elections. These are not Kenya Kwanza elections. They are national elections and it is a competition. So Kenya Kwanza cannot solely appoint a referee in the elections, otherwise that would be their own elections," said Mr Odinga.