Ruto, Raila headed for clash in IEBC officials ouster bid

Dissenting commissioners

IEBC vice chairperson Juliana Cherera (second left) with commissioners (from left) Justus Nyang’aya, Irene Masit and Wanderi Kamau.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

A showdown looms in the National Assembly as hearings on four petitions seeking the removal of four electoral agency commissioners begin today.

The motion pits the Raila Odinga-led Azimio coalition against President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance House troops.

The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee is today expected to start considering the petitions seeking the removal of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) vice-chairperson Juliana Cherera and commissioners Justus Nyang’aya, Irene Masit and Wanderi Kamau. 

The four commissioners rejected presidential elections results declared by IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, terming the tail-end verification and tallying process opaque.

The four petitions have been separately filed by the Republican Party, Rev Dennis Ndwiga Nthumbi, Mr Geoffrey Lang’at and Mr Steve Jerry Owuor.

Yesterday, Mr Odinga called a press conference on the Cherera Four ouster bid, only to cancel it at the last minute, citing today’s hearings.

“To allow other processes currently underway with regard to summons to IEBC commissioners to proceed without prejudice, Hon. Raila Odinga will not address the subject as earlier announced. Our apologies for the cancellation,” Mr Odinga’s spokesperson Dennis Onyango said in an email to newsrooms.

Yesterday, Azimio MPs hinted at a boycott of the hearings, terming the whole process an illegality and accusing the committee of being misused to oust the four commissioners.

Minority Whip Junet Mohamed told the Nation that the seven Azimio MPs who sit in the committee will not attend today’s meeting and that if they do, they will disrupt it or insist it is illegal. 

“We cannot participate in an illegality. They can sit on their own or if we go there tomorrow (today) then we will disrupt the meeting,” Mr Mohamed said.

He protested that the decision to publish the hearings schedule was unilateral.

The Nation learnt that both Azimio and Kenya Kwanza have been strategising over the matter that is likely to form the next front of the political battle between President Ruto and Mr Odinga.

Azimio is planning to push for fast-tracking of the petition seeking the removal of Mr Chebukati and Commissioners Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye.

The Raila-led coalition wants the petition against the three to considered before the House proceeds for the long recess on December 2.

Azimio plans to keep the Kenya Kwanza side preoccupied with plans to save the Chebukati Three, whose terms expire in January.

In a separate but related move, the Azimio coalition, through nominated MP John Mbadi, has sponsored a motion seeking the formation of a select committee to investigate the conduct of the August 9 elections, where Mr Chebukati is expected to feature prominently. 

In the motion, which is yet to be ratified by the House Business Committee, Mr Mbadi wants a 15-member select committee drawn from both Azimio and the ruling Kenya Kwanza to, among other things, investigate the operations of Independent and Electoral and IEBC during the August 9 elections.

“In 2013, 2017 and 2022, the Supreme Court of Kenya made various recommendations for the reform of the electoral processes and in particular the operations of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which recommendations require the implementation and operationalisation by this House and other institutions,” reads the motion.

Mr Mbadi says in the motion that the August elections were marred by the challenge of dysfunctionality of the IEBC, which saw the commission fail to reach a consensus on the results of the presidential election.

The Nation has learnt that through the select committee, Azimio hopes that the four commissioners will be accorded the best opportunity than they had at the Supreme Court to tell the country what transpired at Bomas insofar as the tallying and announcement of presidential election results is concerned.

Sources within the coalition also told the Nation that Azimio is also looking to use the select committee to grill Mr Chebukati, this time after the end of his term. This way, they argue, the remaining commissioners will be in a good position to reveal some details that they cannot do at the moment.

Today, the committee chaired by Tharaka MP George Murugara will hear two petitions out of the four and the petitioners will also be subjected to cross-examination as had been directed by National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula.

The Republican Liberty Party will be the first to face the MPs, followed later in the day by Rev Dennis Nthumbi.

On Friday, it will be the turn of Mr Langat and Mr Owuor to convince the lawmakers that the four commissioners should be sent packing.

The besieged commissioners will have their date with the committee on Monday and Tuesday next week.

In the Kenya Kwanza plan, the commissioners are deemed as politically aligned and, therefore, should be sent home to give the Ruto administration a chance to start on a clean slate.

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