Uproar as IEBC asks Kenyans to verify BBI signatures

Commission wants voters to check if their details were captured without their consent.

In Summary

•DP Ruto allies had claimed people were coerced by BBI promoters to sign for the BBI Bill. 

•President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga are steering the constitutional change. 

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati, commissioner Abdi Guliye and acting CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan when they inspected the BBI supporters verification exercise at the Bomas of Kenya on January 19, 2021 .
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati, commissioner Abdi Guliye and acting CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan when they inspected the BBI supporters verification exercise at the Bomas of Kenya on January 19, 2021 .

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has sparked outrage with its call upon Kenyans to verify whether they indeed signed in support of the BBI referendum.

Allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga have slammed the IEBC move, saying its reeks of sabotage.

The electoral agency has in recent weeks come under pressure for alleged slow verification of signatures that could derail the referendum timelines.

On Thursday, the electoral commission, in a notice published after verification of about 1.3 million signatures, asked voters to confirm if they indeed signed.

“Anyone who has been captured as a supporter without their consent can report to the commission by writing to the CEO indicating their objections.”

IEBC asked aggrieved signatories to submit the reservations by email or hand-delivery by Monday close of business.

However, Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo and his Ndaragwa counterpart Jeremiah Kioni questioned the decision.

The lawmakers – who are leaders of key House committees on the referendum process - said the commission was acting in a manner that invites unnecessary antagonism.

“Their role is to do the verification. We caution the IEBC not to be seen to be inviting unnecessary antagonism. They must ensure that the things they do are not laced with suspicion,” Kioni said.

“They have to win the confidence of the public. If they have gotten the minimum, they should not be seen to be trying to drag the process,” the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee chairman said.

Otiende Amollo, who is vice chair of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, said the development demonstrated the need for urgent reforms at the IEBC.

“The more they do this, the more they give everyone a good reason to remove them,” the lawmaker said.

He backed Kioni’s sentiments, saying after verifying one million records, there was no point to delay the process further.

Amolo said the IEBC was “behaving queerly”, citing the difference in the way it handled the Punguza Mzigo Initiative signatures.

 “At that time they did not ask for money to verify. Strangely enough when it came to BBI, they insisted they wouldn’t move without money and the amount was grossly exaggerated,” the MP said.

IEBC had sought Sh241 million for the verification before they negotiated with the National Treasury for Sh97.3 million.

The MP said it was strange that the commission has taken inordinately long with the BBI signatures compared to the speed at which they dealt with the Ekuru Aukot-led process.

“Punguza was done quickly and quietly. For this, they were seeking a longer period. The assertion is curious.

“Although, they were given 4.2 million, the Constitution requires one million hence there is no need to verify the rest after getting to the threshold.”

Amolo said that IEBC having indicated that it lacked a database of signatures, the verification was limited to counterchecking if the name of the person listed is a registered voter.

“Anything beyond that is not provided for in law and is not accurate. Since they don’t have a database of signatures, they have nothing to check against.”

Their sentiments followed after poll experts lamented the slow pace of the verification.

They asked the commission “to hasten the process of verification to avert any speculation that would continue to spark political reactions.”

The team is also alarmed by the intermittent breakdown in internet connectivity at the Bomas of Kenya, which is housing the 400 clerks conducting the verification.

During signature collection, Deputy President William Ruto’s allies claimed that voters were being coerced by provincial administrators to sign for the BBI Bill.

Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and former PSCU digital strategist Dennis Itumbi, raised the claims.

BBI promoters said the IEBC’s assertions for checks on whether consent of voters was sought rang an alarm bell.

Edited by Henry Makori