President Ruto declares six vacancies at IEBC

President William Ruto

President William Ruto. He has declared vacancies for the positions of the IEBC chairperson and five commissioners

Photo credit: Tony Karumba | AFP

President William Ruto has declared vacancies at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) after the retirement of Wafula Chebukati, Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu on January 17.

At the same time, Juliana Cherera, Francis Wanderi and Justus Nyang'aya resigned while Irene Masit is before Justice Aggrey Muchelule-led tribunal hence the electoral agency remains illegally constituted.

In a Gazette notice released on Tuesday, the Head of State declared the position of IEBC chairperson and five commissioners vacant, paving the way for the recruitment to kick off.

“Whereas subsequent to the notification of impending vacancies, three members of the IEBC tendered their resignation from office through letters, addressed to the Head of State and government as required by. One member of the IEBC stands suspended pursuant to article 251 of the Constitution and is subject to an inquiry by the tribunal appointed vide Kenya Gazette no. 14890 of December 2, 2022,”

“Whereas the High Court of Kenya in Constitutional petition no. E364 of 2020 declared Section 2 (a) of the IEBC (Amendment) Act, 2020 as unconstitutional; effectively annulling the composition of the Selection Panel as set out under paragraph 1 (2) of the First Schedule of the Act,” reads the notice.

The law requires that the President declares such vacancies after the lapse of the Constitutional timeline after an amendment which has been assented comes into force.

 “Now therefore, in the exercise of the powers conferred by Section 7A (2) of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act, 2011 as read with paragraph 1 (1) of the First Schedule to the Act, I William Samoei Ruto, President of the Republic of Kenya and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, declare vacancies in the position- chairperson and five members of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission,” states the notice.

The recently assented the IEBC (Amendment) Bill 2022 alters the first schedule of the parent Act to change the composition of the selection panel that oversees the filling of vacant positions at the commission.

The new-look selection panel shall include two nominees- one man and one woman- from the Parliamentary Service Commission down from four in the repealed law.

The panel will also have one person nominated each by the Public Service Commission, the Political Parties Liaison Committee, the Law Society of Kenya and two persons- a man and a woman representing the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya.

Already the changes have been opposed by Azimio La Umoja One Kenya boss Raila Odinga and his allies who have read malice in it arguing that it gives the ruling coalition the upper hand in recruiting the new commissioners of the electoral body.

"The previous law didn't really look objective but it was better than this, this is worse because the Public Service Commission is the recruiting agency of the Executive. The two slots of the Parliamentary Service Commission will be influenced by Kenya Kwanza the way the Tanga Tanga complained then that Jubilee and ODM influenced the selection panel but let us not go that direction, let us do the right thing," ODM chairperson John Mbadi said recently.

But allies of Dr Ruto maintained that the changes at the Parliamentary Service Commission will help cure the mess created by Mr Odinga and former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

"IEBC Commissioners will not be handpicked. In fact, the selection panel will have an Azimio person because of the two slots of the Parliamentary Service Commission, one will go to Kenya Kwanza while the other one will go to Azimio. There is also the Political Parties Caucus which is not influenced by anyone, they will bring their nominee. Azimio is now realising the mistake they made by the previous law which we opposed. It is back to haunt them now but let them know that we have a law and we're not operating in a vacuum," said Tharaka MP George Murugara, who is also the chairperson Justice and Legal Affairs Committee.