September 21st 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Chebukati in dilemma as NASA, Jubilee lock horns over 'Chiloba Six'

"The Supreme Court said a fresh election should be held within sixty days. It did not say that people should go home. No IEBC officer will go home," Duale said.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 05 Sep 2017 13:24 EAT

(L-R): IEBC commissioner Roseline Akombe, chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezra Chiloba at a press conference.

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and a number of commissioners who were pressing for the suspension of key officials implicated by the opposition NASA coalition in circumventing legal requirements in the August 8 presidential election that was nullified by the Supreme Court have found them unable to move forward on their decisions, raising fears that differences between NASA and Jubilee sides have thrown the commission into paralysis.

Immediately after Friday's Supreme Court ruling nullifying the election, Chebukati expressed confidence that the commission would let go of officials implicated in the fraudulent tallying cited by the Supreme Court. “It is worth noting that the new commissioners only took office seven months ago without any changes made to the secretariat. To protect the integrity of the sovereign will of the Kenyan people, the commission intends to make internal changes to our personnel and processes as we prepare for the fresh presidential election in sixty days,” Mr Chebukati said.

The chairman is reported to have followed up on the thought at the first meeting of the commissioners over the weekend. But he found himself inundated with legal opinion (including from some officials whose jobs would be on the line) indicating that the commissioners cannot act on the concerned officers until after the Supreme Court ruling shall have been delivered and studied. "You can't suspend officials on the basis of a Supreme Court statement. The judges gave very clear orders IEBC has to abide by, but it is their ruling that will provide a basis for determination on which officials should be fired if any," said a source briefed by an IEBC commissioner after Saturdays' deliberations.

By Monday, that line of reasoning had gained traction, provided by the commission's human resources director as well as ICT director, both of whom were also earmarked for removal by the NASA coalition. As the Sunday Nation reported after the Plenary meeting, the meeting nearly degenerated into fights between a commissioner and a senior ICT official. The official could not explain how the commissioner's log-in credentials for the IEBC server were used to make alterations to results on the system without the commissioner's knowledge.

Anecdotal information reaching the Kenya Free Press also indicates that the top officials identified by NASA for removal have enacted a fierce counterattack that has scared a number of commissioners. Whereas the commissioners initially planned to assert their authority since the Supreme Court ruling, they now rely on the secretariat more than ever, as the CEO Ezra Chiloba has initiated preparations for the new election set for October 17.

The secretariat staff have also been enabled by the lack of concrete demand by NASA on which changes it requires. NASA has relied on a series of perceived reluctance by the officials it identified to be corrupt to follow the electoral law from before the election, but it has not adduced evidence to the commission on why it wants specific officers removed. IEBC lawyers say that only such a formal complaint should move commissioners, "and not threats issued from political rallies."

NASA has demanded the removal of Mr Chiloba, his deputy Betty Nyabuto, director of voter registration and electoral operations Immaculate Kasait, head of legal department Praxedes Tororey, director of ICT Andrew Muhati, and Moses Kipkogey (legal services director and adviser to the CEO). But these directors, with tacit support of Jubilee politicians and social media activists, have aggressively fought back with a narrative that their removal would give way to deputies and other senior managers the government cannot fully trust.

Throughout Monday following the commission's announcement of the new election date, a WhatsApp report apparently written by a professional journalist went viral, indicating that these aforementioned top officials had been fired and giving the names of those who had taken their places. The names of the 'new appointees' were carefully chosen to imply that they were from the Luo, Luyia and Kamba communities and therefore may be supporters of NASA.

This morning, IEBC sent out a media statement urging Kenyans to ignore the rumours. “We are faced with another spell of fake news. Kindly ignore story on purported staff changes at the Commission. We tell it when there is,” the commission said on its Twitter handle, and the message was approved by the CEO himself, according to our sources.

The series of events culminated in NASA sending a tough letter to Chebukati early today that called for the immediate removal of the six officials it implicates in the rigging, the 'Chiloba Six', and demanding a series of other guarantees on the safety and reliability of the systems IEBC will deploy in the new election. Among these is the publication of a final Register of Voters, the determination of a complimentary mechanism for use in case of the failure of electronic equipment, the determination of all legal polling stations, and the procedure of transmission of results.

The NASA letter signed by the coalition's Presidential Campaign Chairman Musalia Mudavadi also takes issue with the IEBC's interpretation of the fresh election as a run-off, hence its removal of six candidates who ran against President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA candidate Raila Odinga.

The letter is expected to trigger a chain reaction from IEBC and the Jubilee side given that President Kenyatta supports the beleaguered officials. To advance their support for IEBC staff, the president and his deputy William Ruto had asked the commission to set the date of the new election and ignore concerns by the opposition.

A top Jubilee leader, Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale, has categorically stated the party's position, holding that Jubilee will not support the removal of any single officer from IEBC, even a junior one. "The Supreme Court said a fresh election should be held within sixty day days. It did not say that people should go home. No IEBC officer will go home," Duale said.

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