May 27th 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Activists question Ruto role in IEBC staffing for western Kenya counties

"It seems these people have been posted to declare results that will be deemed as final, in accordance with the recent High Court ruling on presidential election results," said Pascalia Makonjio, a civil society activist.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comSaturday, 06 May 2017 20:22 EAT

(L-R): IEBC Commissioner Roselyne Akombe, Chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezra Chiloba at a previous briefing.

Civil society campaigners have questioned the odd coincidence whereby electoral commission officials deployed to the four counties of western Kenya are all from one ethnic group. According to a list of appointments publicised last week by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, most of the officers heading county and constituency offices of the commission in western Kenya are Kalenjin.

According to the list of the appointments made by IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba, Ms Grace Chepchirchir Rono will be in charge of Kakamega County and Ms Bilha Jeruto Kiptugen (Bungoma). The latter is alleged to be the wife of a former Kanu politician and current ally of deputy president William Ruto.

In the constituencies, several returning officers are also from the Kalenjin. Lugari will be led by Kipkemboi Lagat, Malava by Isaac Kiplagat, Mumias West by Peris Cherono, Matungua by John Kiplangat Kiruia. Other returning officers include Kiprono Rutto in Vihiga, Kipkemoi Ng'tich for Hamisi, Wilson Kimutaia for Mount Elgon, Kimutai Kemei in Bumula, and Kanduyi being led by Eunice Jelagat. 

Webuye West will be under Kipchirchir Serem, Webuye East under Cheruto Saina, Kimilili under Samuel Kiptoo, Nambale will be manned by Kipkogei Bowen, Matayos by Kipruto Kerich and Funyula under Godfrey Engor. The appointments have hightened concerns that deputy president Ruto could have influenced the selections.

In February, the Kenya Free Press reported of a demand for audit of IEBC staffing by CORD leader Raila Odinga when the opposition leaders met with the then new IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati. In light of the new appointments, we could not acertain the extent of the audit or whether it was conducted at all.

"It seems these people have been posted to declare results that will be deemed as final, in accordance with the recent High Court ruling on presidential election results," said Pascalia Makonjio, a civil society activist.

"Why would an impartial agency want to ethnically balkanise the country?" wondered activist Hillary Onyango, who demanded fair representation in the management of the election. Other activists held that the mere fact that there were "so many" returning officers from a single community called into question the credibility of the election being planned.

Other leaders, however, defended the IEBC. Lawyer PLO Lumumba asked for Kenyans to give IEBC the benefit of doubt in the appointments. "Let us allow institutional autonomy, our political inclinations notwithstanding. The current administration has governed terribly but we should not see their hand in every institutional action," he said.

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