Ruto, Raila camps in fresh war over new IEBC officials

Kalonzo Musyoka

Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka (left) and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah during the signing of the bipartisan talks framework agreement on August 29,2023.

Photo credit: Wildred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The Opposition is demanding that the National Dialogue Committee route to be followed, while Kenya Kwanza favour the selection panel direction.
  • National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said the Opposition would reject any changes spearheaded by the Nelson Makanda-led IEBC Selection Panel.

President William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga are headed for a major clash over the reconstitution of the electoral agency.

A push-and-pull between lieutenants of the two political leaders threatens to derail the recruitment of members of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Leaders in the two camps are reading from different scripts on what route should be followed in the restructuring the IEBC, setting the stage for a major face-off as Parliament resumes.

While the Opposition is demanding that the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) route to be followed, their Kenya Kwanza counterparts favour the selection panel direction.

This comes amid fears of constitutional crisis as time is running out on the review of constituency boundaries, a task that should be carried out by a properly constituted IEBC.

Stocking the embers of controversy yesterday, National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said the Opposition has drawn a line in the sand and would reject any changes spearheaded by the Nelson Makanda-led IEBC Selection Panel.

The Ugunja MP argued that Nadco, which was co-chaired by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah, last year came up with a report, whose framework would guide the process to overhaul the IEBC.

“The matter of the reconstitution of the IEBC is not child’s play and our lenience should not be taken for a weakness,” he added.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Secretary of Political Affairs said Azimio gave peace a chance by halting anti-government protests and engaging in the talks and the Nadco report must be taken seriously.

He said the National Assembly and the Senate should prioritise debate on the Nadco report when Parliament resumes from the long December recess.

Mr Wandayi’s tough stance comes days after Mr Odinga dismissed a court ruling paving way for the selection panel to resume recruitment of the polls agency’s chairperson and commissioners.

High Court judge Justice Mugure Thande on February 1 ordered the panel to start the recruitment immediately.

Mr Odinga has, however, insisted that the formation of the new IEBC can only continue after the passage of the Nadco report in Parliament.

“[The IEBC Selection Panel] cannot work because it was disbanded by Parliament,” said the Opposition leader while presiding over an ODM membership recruitment rally at Kamukunji grounds in Nairobi recently.

The IEBC lacks a chairperson and six commissioners following the end of ex-chair Wafula Chebukati’s term together with two other commissioners while four others resigned after the 2022 presidential poll fallout.

“We have already crossed the bridge and this is one of those issues that require bi-partisanship for a free and fair elections,” said ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna. On Saturday, Mr Musyoka said Parliament should prioritise the reconstitution of the electoral body and carry out the task as had earlier been agreed on.

“There is no way Kenya Kwanza will be allowed to unilaterally nominate IEBC commissioners yet we had agreed that Raila na Ruto should agree on the next IEBC chairperson,” he said.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi alleged mischief in the hurry to overhaul the IEBC yet the Nadco report was still pending.

“Should they proceed to select the commissioners, we as Azimio will not be part of the process,” said Mr Osotsi. 

Nonetheless, the IEBC Selection Panel has already met National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula regarding funding, whereupon Mr Wetang’ula promised to liaise with the National Treasury to find money through the Parliamentary Service Commission from where it draws its secretariat and funding.

In a press statement last week, the panel outlined its plans to continue the recruitment process, which had faced challenges in recent months.

“The Selection Panel has thus far carried out three stages of verification for all the applications received for the positions of chairperson and members of the IEBC,” Dr Makanda said.

“We are in the process of concluding the short-listing of candidates, before embarking on the publication of the same and subsequent interviews.”

For their part, Kenya Kwanza leaders have hit out at their counterparts, saying, Azimio’s actions resemble “those of a spoiled and unreasonable child.”

Kiambu Senator Karungo said it is the same Opposition who vociferously protested disobedience of court orders who are now threatening to reject the reconstitution of IEBC despite the courts having approved the r process. 

“I will lobby like-minded senators and MPs not to discuss or permit the tabling of the Nadco report until the IEBC Selection Panel is allowed to proceed with its mandate,” said the lawmaker.

Senate Majority Whip Boni Khalwale said the Opposition was paying for their political miscalculations. He argued that, when Parliament made a decision to form the panel, members of Azimio walked out of chambers instead of sitting to debate.

The senator said the Opposition opted to participate in the Nadco process, which has proven to be a “waste of public resources”.

“The more things change, the more they remain the same. Let's face it, Azimio should be serious and should make up their mind on at least one thing,” said the Kakamega senator.