All may not be well at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission amid allegations of a rift between commissioners, which could impact the conduct of the August 9 elections.
With just over two months to the August 9 elections, the commission has been hit by divisions pitting the three commissioners who have been there the longest, namely chairman Wafula Chebukati, Prof Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu, and the four who were appointed in September 2021, namely vice chairperson Juliana Cherera, Francis Wanderi, Irene Masit, and Justus Nyang’aya.
The Nairobi Law Monthly understands that the Chebukati group, using their experience and association with secretariat staff, have been side-lining the recently appointed commissioners in key decision making, resulting in fierce opposition. An IEBC insider said the Chebukati group see the new commissioners as a disruption. They were appointed when the commission had awarded or was on the verge of awarding tenders for strategic election materials such as technology, logistics and ballot papers.
But to their advantage, the recently appointed commissioners are in the majority out of the seven commissioners.
Two recent incidents have brought the divisions to the fore, as the two factions battle. The first incident that is now in the public domain concerned the appointment of returning officers in April. At the plenary, the commission’s highest policy-making body, the commissioners had agreed that the draft list of returning officers would be circulated to them for their input before the same could be shared with political parties.
But that was never to be as the names were shared with the political parties behind the new commissioners’ backs, causing a major clash. When the four new commissioners learnt of what had happened, they confronted Chebukati who mumbled a convoluted, unconvincing explanation. According to Chebukati, the appointment of returning officers is a role for the commission secretariat, not commissioners. An IEBC insider told the Nairobi Law Monthly that the issue of appointment of returning officers raised temperatures so much as some commissioners threatened to go public.
The appointment of returning officers had also caused a clash between Chebukati and former CEO Ezra Chiloba in their long-running feuds. Back then, Chebukati dismissed the list that Chiloba had made of returning officers.
Then there is the issue regarding the recruitment of the Director of Voter Registration and Electoral Operations. The Nairobi Law Monthy has established that the recently appointed commissioners have refused to approve the confirmation of Moses Sunkuli to the position after the scores of the candidates were reportedly switched.
At the interviews, IEBC had shortlisted three internal candidates, two county election managers namely Nancy Kariuki and Jane Gitonga, and Mr Sunkuli who has been holding the office in an acting capacity. Ms Gitonga had emerged the best in the interviews while Ms Kariuki and Mr Sunkuli tied. But a few days later, the scores were switched and now Mr Sunkuli and Ms Kariuki were tied at the top.
While some commissioners pushed for the commission plenary to appoint Mr Sunkuli, others were taking none of that resulting in a stalemate which persists. Bitten once again, some of the commissioners have even opposed letting Mr Sunkuli continue to hold the office in an acting capacity.
The terms of Mr Chebukati, Prof Guliye and Mr Molu will be expiring in early 2023, just a few months after the General Election. That means that it is Ms Cherera, Mr Wanderi, Ms Masit and Mr Nyang’aya who will be around in the coming years until replacements for the three outgoing commissioners are appointed. The four recently appointed commissioners will also, therefore, take the lead in conducting the post-election evaluation as well as initiating the boundaries review, expected to kick off sometime in 2023.. (