April 28th 2017

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With truce on horizon, CORD puts off anti-IEBC protests indefinitely

CORD calls off its countrywide protests to press for reforms in the electoral commission, saying it is hopeful of a compromise between itself and the government side. Deputy President William Ruto says deal is imminent.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comSunday, 19 Jun 2016 12:53 EAT

The opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, CORD, has called off its countrywide protests to press for reforms in the electoral commission, saying it is hopeful of a compromise between itself and the government side, Jubilee. Siaya Senator James Orengo, a top member of CORD, said in a statement this evening that “major sticking points have been resolved” and the two sides could soon hammer out an agreement over the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which CORD wants to be dissolved and reconstituted.

The government sees no urgency to reconstitute the commission, and has previously defeated a parliamentary petition by CORD that called for IEBC commissioners to be removed from office on the basis of alleged corruption and bias.

Last month, CORD launched a campaign of weekly protests to force IEBC commissioners out of office. The coalition has held five demos so far, every Monday, but last week it announced plans to increase the frequency of demos to twice a week, adding Thursdays. Nearly ten CORD supporters have been shot dead by the police the protests.

At the same time, CORD has once again postponed the protests to give dialogue a chance,hopeful that this time it will not be in vain. Orengo’s statement this evening expressed renewed optimism, speaking of “an overwhelming likelihood that a bipartisan motion” to jumpstart talks on IEBC’s future “can be tabled early in the week”.

The first such compromise was announced on May 31, when President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy William Ruto hosted CORD leaders Raila Odinga and Moses Wetangula at State House. Though the two were invited officially to attend the luncheon President Uhuru hosted for South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who was visiting, it was widely seen as an attempt by the two sides to reach agreement on the IEBC.

Mr Odinga announced after the meeting that the two sides had agreed at the State House meeting to appoint five parliamentary members to jumpstart dialogue on the IEBC issue. That position was disowned by President Uhuru, whose spokesman Munyori Buku said that the two leaders had not discussed IEBC at all during their meeting at State House.

As CORD resumed its protests, President Uhuru launched a process that would see the National Assembly and the Senate form a joint parliamentary select committee to hear public views on the IEBC question and report to Parliament. CORD rejected both the composition and mandate of the team. The coalition wants a team comprised of parliamentary and non-parliamentary players to hammer out an agreement binding on Parliament.

From Orengo’s statement, CORD now believes this demand will be met. “We are looking forward to the establishment of the joint parliamentary select committee, with the full weight of the Coalitions and the Kenyan people behind it, not later than the week ending Friday 24th June 2016,” the statement said.

Earlier in the day, Deputy President William Ruto, speaking at a church service in Turbo constituency, Uasin Gishu, said that the sticky issues over the IEBC issue would be resolved this week, probably in “two to three days.” The DP said: "All of us have a responsibility of building a cohesive country that we can be proud of".

CORD’s candidate Raila Odinga lost the 2013 presidential election, whose tallying was marred by irregularities. The Supreme Court to which he petitioned did not overturn the result, holding that the irregularities did not fundamentally affect the result. However, IEBC commissioners, in particular the chairman Issack Hassan, alleged in court papers that Mr Odinga does not accept election results unless he wins, a statement that many interpreted as a show of the chairman’s bias.

CORD’s opposition to the commissioners was given a fillip in 2014 when directors of a British company were tried and convicted for paying bribes to IEBC commissioners in exchange for lucrative printing tenders. The trial generated a treasure trove of material indicating how IEBC officials solicited bribes from the directors who obliged in order to get the commission’s business.

The scandal, which came to be known as ‘chickengate’ saw the commission’s chief executive, James Oswago, removed from office. A former commissioner who had since been appointed as a cabinet secretary was also forced to leave office. The chairman is under investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. He has refused to resign, and the Jubilee coalition’s parliamentary majority has defeated CORD’s motions to remove him through a parliamentary process as provided for under the law.

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