Ruto forms 7-member selection panel to fill IEBC vacancies

President William Ruto

President William Ruto at State House, Nairobi, on February 9, 2023. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto has constituted a seven-member selection panel to fill vacancies at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Mid this month, the Head of State declared six vacancies at the electoral body following the retirement of chairman Wafula Chebukati, Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu on January 17.

Juliana Cherera, Francis Wanderi and Justus Nyang'aya resigned while on Monday, a tribunal led by Justice Aggrey Muchelule tribunal recommended that the President fire Irene Masit.

Those nominated to the selection panel are Bethuel Sugut and Novice Euralia Atieno, who will represent the Parliamentary Service Commission.

In the Gazette notice is also Charity Kisotu, the vice chairperson of the Public Service Commission (PSC), and Evans Misati James from the Political Parties Liaison Committee.

The Law Society of Kenya will be represented by Benson Ngugi Njeri while Dr Nelson Makanda and Fatuma Saman will represent the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya.

The recently passed the IEBC (Amendment) Bill 2022 altered the first schedule of the parent Act, to change the composition of the selection panel that oversees the filling of vacancies at the commission.

Ndung'u Wainaina, director of the International Center for Policy and Conflict, told Nation.Africa that the IEBC’s problems facing IEBC will remain until the process of recruiting commissioners is uncompromised.

“The IEBC is constitutionally and legally independent but when you look at the institution itself, you ask yourself ’Is it independent?’ Yes, it is, but it is not structurally independent because the mode of recruiting commissioners is compromised. The selection panel is politically compromised and that is where the problem begins,” he said.

“The commission cannot be operationally independent when it is not structurally independent. The IEBC also does not enjoy financial independence. If we have to sort it out, let IEBC prepare its own budget and appropriated directly from Parliament, not through a ministry, as is the case now. We need to come up with a National Electoral Commission Fund to give the IEBC financial autonomy,” Mr Wainaina said.

With the constitution of the IEBC Selection Panel, the recruitment of new commissioners becomes the next battlefront between President Ruto and his political nemesis, Raila Odinga, leader of the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition.