IEBC

Religious leaders push to delink boundaries review role from IEBC

Religious leaders have made radical proposals that would delink the boundaries review role from the elections commission in what they say would diffuse ethnic tensions

In Summary

• The Inter-Religious Council, a coalition of all major faiths, wants an ad hoc agency created every 10 years to oversee delineation of electoral administrative units. 

• The Constitution gives the IEBC the mandate to manage elections and to set and review boundaries.

IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati addressing the media during the scrutinizing of the Punguza mizigo signatures at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development headquarters in Nairobi,June 11th 2019.
IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati addressing the media during the scrutinizing of the Punguza mizigo signatures at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development headquarters in Nairobi,June 11th 2019.
Image: Douglas Okiddy

Religious leaders yesterday made radical proposals to strip the boundaries review function from the IEBC in what they said would diffuse ethnic tensions.

The Inter-Religious Council, a coalition of all major faiths, wants an ad hoc agency created every 10 years to oversee delineation of electoral administrative units. 

 
 

The clergy says that giving the boundaries exercise to a different agency would be a significant step in ensuring that elections, which normally raise tensions, are better managed.

Many counties and constituencies are dominated by one or more communities, hence, alteration of boundaries would have an impact on voting and voting blocs. Some communities would feel threatened if census results result in different boundaries.

If the boundaries reviewing role is assigned to a different agency, then the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission would have time to focus on conducting free, fair and credible polls.

The Inter-Religious Council's proposals were made yesterday to the Constitution Implementation and Oversight Committee of the National Assembly. It is receiving views on the  IEBC Act.

To reduce costs, the clergy recommended that the boundaries agency be disbanded immediately after completing its task.

“We are not thinking of a permanent commission. We can have the ad hoc committee conduct the review after the August census and then the body would be disbanded,” the Supkem chairman Yusuf Nzibo said.

The Constitution gives the IEBC the mandate to manage elections and to set and review boundaries.

The last review was in April-June 2012.



 
 

Constitutionally, the next review can be undertaken within a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 12 after that — in June 2020 to June 2024.

The upcoming national census would inform the boundaries' review that is expected to be another thorny and emotive issue.

The religious leaders also proposed that the tenure of commissioners be staggered to avert the crisis caused by the difficulty in filling vacancies.

“A staggered tenure would ensure continuity as the commissioners will not leave at the same time as is the case today,”  Joseph Mutie, chairman of the Inter-Religious Council, said.

The council further told the committee chaired by Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaragwa MP) that the general election should also be staggered to improve polls management.

The IEBC too has been pushing for the same reform to ensure that national elections and county polls are not held on the same day.

The council suggests that the election of President, MPs and Woman Representatives be held on different days from those of senators, governors, and MCAs.

The religious leaders demanded that IEBC officers found culpable of electoral malpractices be personally held liable. The polls register should be audited two years after every election.

MPs are collecting views from members of the public on proposed amendments to the IEBC Act, including reducing the number of commissioners from seven to five.

As the parliamentary committee continues gathers IEBGC reform proposals, the recruitment of the IEBC Chief Executive Officer has triggered a fresh storm at the agency.

Commission chairman Wafula Chebuakati, who was forced by the court to re-advertise the position last month, is said to be keen to bring in an outsider to manage the 2022 polls.

However, the push is being resisted by commissioners Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye, who are said to be favouring acting CEO Hussein Marjan to be confirmed to the top job.



Members of the secretariat have also been drawn into the intrigues and the majority appear to be quietly supporting Marjan's elevation of Marjan to the hot seat.

Last Friday, the commission announced that it had received 95 applicants by the June 3 deadline.

"The commission will publish the full list of applicants alongside shortlisted candidates within the next 14 days from the date hereof," Chebukati said in a statement dated June 7.

Given past experience, staff members have been complaining that the commission has been ignoring its own staff when it comes to the appointment of a CEO.

For instance, James Oswago who exited the commission unceremoniously in 2013 had been hired in 2010 from Outwardbound Kenya where he served as CEO.

Similarly,  ex-IEBC boss Ezra Chiloba was outsourced in 2013 from UNDP Kenya.

Commission staff who spoke to the Star in confidence cited former acting CEO Betty Nyabuto who was moved aside to make way for Chiloba despite acting in the position since Oswago's exit.

We are already engaging specific House committees to develop legal structures that will address challenges that pop up during the poll exercise. We continue to improve following lessons we learn
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati

"It's like there's an unwritten rule that the highest we can reach is deputy CEO and not CEO. Why must the commission every now and then hire outsiders when there are competent staff within who should be promoted? protested a staff member who sought anonymity for fear of reprisals.

However, yesterday IEBC chairman Chebukati denied there is a split, saying that the commission has ample succession structures in place.

He said the exit of Chiloba has not left a vacuum since Marjan has taken up the position in an acting capacity.

“We already have an acting Chief Executive Officer who is also the commission secretary and all our programs are going on well without any interruption. He has already stepped into the shoes of the CEO,” Chebukati said.

The chairman was addressing the media at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development headquarters, Nairobi, during an inspection of the ongoing scrutiny of the Punguza Mizigo signatures.

The Punguza Mizigo is a Thirdway Alliance initiative seeking a Constitutional review to reduce the burden and cost of governance borne by taxpayers.

“After the scrutiny, the clerks and other officers in charge will take the report to the acting CEO of the IEBC for action,” Chebukati said, confirming that Marjan was in charge for the time being.



Chebukati said that the electoral body had made radical legislative proposals to Parliament to strengthen the electoral framework and correct past errors.

But MPs criticised the proposal of the Inter-Religious Council, saying creating a separate boundaries body and staggering elections would strain the country's finances in view of the cash crisis at Treasury.

They also said it would be difficult to define the terms of office for various leadership positions, saying a referendum would be needed.

“Why not have more people appointed by the IEBC to manage the two sets of elections the same day,” Kangundo MP Fabian Kyule asked.

Supkem's Nzibo responded that elections can be managed without extra costs, an idea backed by the Hindu Religious Council saying it can be sorted using technology.

However, MPs said attempts to instil confidence in the election process by use of technology during the 2017 polls failed.