President William Ruto’s camp now wants a commission of inquiry formed to audit the August 2022 presidential poll, immediately after the conclusion of hearings of the tribunal investigating the conduct of four election commissioners.
Leaders allied to the President want the probe to cover the events surrounding the declaration of the results, the divisions in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), alleged “reluctance of police” to address Bomas chaos, orders leading to senior security officials’ visit to the national tallying centre, and their planned role.
The August 15 declaration of Dr Ruto as the winner of the poll was marred by chaos at the national tallying centre in Bomas, as well as a surprise press conference by four IEBC officials, now under probe by a tribunal for disowning the results declared by polls chief Wafula Chebukati, at the last minute.
Dr Ruto’s allies, who are aware of the plan, yesterday intimated to the Nation that there is a plan to float the idea of forming a commission of inquiry to the Cabinet immediately after the tribunal chaired by Justice Aggrey Muchelule concludes its work.
“Boss (Dr Ruto) had to donate his bodyguards to Chebukati after those goons attempted to kidnap him and there were calls to the IEBC chairperson from a very senior government official then. That is why a commission of inquiry will look into all this. The Cabinet will decide on the scope and when the commission will be constituted,” said a source in Dr Ruto’s inner circle.
Deputy Majority Leader in the National Assembly Owen Baya yesterday confirmed the commission of inquiry plot, terming it necessary for Kenyans to have the full picture of what led to the events of the August 15 declaration. “We have to know what happened. Kenyans have a right to know what happened so that no other person drags this country down the same path. What happened would have burned this country. Yes, we are ready for a commission of inquiry,” said the Kilifi North MP.
Asked when the commission is likely to be set up, Mr Baya said, “When the President is ready and after the Muchelule tribunal.”
Belgut MP Nelson Koech, a senior member of Dr Ruto’s inner circle, also backed such a probe. He argued that the Muchelule tribunal, which is probing the conduct of former IEBC vice chairperson Juliana Cherera, and commissioners Justus Nyang’aya, Francis Wanderi, and Irene Masit, has exposed what he sees as “reason enough” for the formation of a commission of inquiry. Mr Cherera, Mr Nyang’aya, and Mr Wanderi resigned from IEBC.
“The revelations that have come out of the tribunal so far point to the urgent need for a commission of inquiry into what transpired before and after the declaration of the presidential results. It is now clear that there was a conspiracy among top officials as high as the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) to impeach the win of President William Ruto, usurp the sovereignty of Kenyans and form a government otherwise than provided for in the Constitution, in treasonous violation of the Constitution,” Mr Koech, who also chairs the Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee, said.
According to Mr Koech, it is only through such a commission that Kenyans will know who sent members of NSAC to visit Mr Chebukati before the results were declared.
“On whose instructions was NSAC working? Who was to execute those instructions and what were the instructions?” asked the second-term legislator.
During the presidential petition at the Supreme Court, IEBC commissioner Abdi Guliye, in an affidavit, disclosed that NSAC, led by Principal Administrative Secretary in the Office of President Kennedy Kihara, former Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, Solicitor General Kennedy Ogeto, former Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and Lieutenant General Francis Ogolla, who is the Vice Chief of Defence, visited Bomas on August 15, 2022, and warned Mr Chebukati against declaring Dr Ruto as the president-elect. But in their response, Mr Kihara and Mr Kinyua dismissed the claim as “unfounded and a total misrepresentation of the events of August 15, 2022”.
“The said meeting of August 15, 2022, was necessitated by the fact that the NSAC, in the discharge of its mandate, had become seized of information to the effect that apparent delays in declaring the results of the presidential election, and the manner in which results were being transmitted, including the stoppage of the public display of results, had generated considerable public anxiety and tension and risked creating the opportunity for chaos, violence and insecurity in parts of the country,” they said in their affidavit.
Mr Koech argues that the rush by Ms Cherera, Mr Nyang’aya and Mr Wanderi to resign shows they are guilty, hence need to be charged in a court of law. “A commission of inquiry is the only safeguard to ensure we get to the bottom of the matters at issue and ensure that in future, lives of Kenyans are not put at risk by unscrupulous persons trying to sabotage our democracy. It is also necessary to decide if any political party, candidate or state officer committed an election offence or violated the Constitution and the measures that should be taken to punish any wrongdoing,” the lawmaker told the Nation yesterday.
“Heal the wounds”
Kesses MP Julius Ruto, another Ruto ally, said that while there is a need to “heal the wounds”, it is also crucial for Kenyans to know what transpired.
“No need to open wounds where they are closed. However, Kenyans deserve to know what transpired at the Bomas of Kenya; it’s also for the purpose of strengthening the institutions in future elections.”
Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki, for his part, said: “I think the tribunal on the four IEBC commissioners shall be able to unearth what transpired at the Bomas of Kenya before the declaration of presidential results.”
“The President is focused on implementing Kenya Kwanza’s bottom-up plan. He is fully aware of what happened before the declaration of results and more will come from the tribunal formed to investigate the suitability of Cherera Four,” said Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa.
After the 2007 General Election, the country witnessed similar scrutiny, outside the court framework, in the wake of a disputed presidential election. An inquiry by the Justice Johann Kriegler-led Independent Review Commission found the election to have been deeply flawed to the extent that it was impossible to determine who won.
The move by Dr Ruto’s camp comes barely a week after Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga disclosed that they would demand an audit of the August General Election results to help build Kenyans’ confidence to participate again in the democratic exercise come 2027.
According to Mr Odinga, Mr Chebukati’s conduct in the polls makes him “a criminal who should be prosecuted and thrown in jail”.
“We want an audit of these results so that Kenyans can have confidence that comes 2027, they can go to the polls and cast their votes and that their votes will count. In my view, Mr Chebukati is a criminal, who should be prosecuted and sentenced to jail. What he has committed is a great crime against humanity and against the people of this country,” he said.
Azimio, through nominated MP John Mbadi, has already sponsored a motion seeking the formation of a select committee to investigate the August 9 elections, where Mr Chebukati is expected to feature prominently.
In the motion yet to be ratified by the House Business Committee, Mr Mbadi wants a 15-member select committee drawn from both Azimio and Kenya Kwanza to, among other things, investigate the operations of the IEBC during the election. “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 the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which recommendations require the implementation and operationalisation by this House and other institutions,” reads the motion.
Mr Mbadi says the August election was mired in the dysfunctionality of the IEBC, which saw the commission fail to agree on the validity of presidential election results.