Two electoral commissioners who resigned in a huff early this year have rescinded their decisions and returned to work yesterday, raising questions.
Ms Connie Maina, who until April was the vice chairperson, and Ms Margaret Mwachanya made an unexpected return to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission yesterday, throwing everything into a spin after their resignations on April 16.
The two, alongside Mr Paul Kurgat, had quit the commission in anger, questioning chairman Wafula Chebukati’s leadership style after he suspended CEO Ezra Chiloba over mismanagement of the last two presidential elections.
A source close to Mr Kurgat told the Nation Friday that he will also make a comeback to the commission on Monday.
The three reportedly exploited the loopholes of a judgement delivered by Justice Winfrida Okwany in a petition to reclaim the positions they occupied during last year’s tumultuous presidential elections, one of which was nullified by the Supreme Court.
The judge had ruled that their resignation was unprocedural as they did not write to the appointing authority.
Ms Maina and Ms Mwachanya stormed the commission Friday, saying they are effectively still in office despite having announced their resignations during a high profile press conference.
While the commission’s spokesman Andrew Limo confirmed the presence of the two at the commission for the better part of yesterday, he said he didn’t know the nature of their mission. The move has, however, raised fears the two were merely twisting the judgment to atone for the tactical blunders that led to their resignations. “They came this morning. They wanted to see the chairman but I am not sure on the nature of the business,” Mr Limo said yesterday.
Sources said the two arrived at the commission mid-morning and went to the office of Mr Chebukati, who left after refusing to see them describing them as strangers whom he could only meet on appointment.
They then walked to the office of commissioner Abdi Guliye where they held a meeting for about three hours. Also in the meeting was the Acting CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan. Details of the meeting were not available by the time of going to press.
While resigning, the three commissioners had said they had no faith in Mr Chebukati and that under his leadership “the commission boardroom has become a venue for peddling misinformation, grounds for brewing mistrust and a space for scrambling for and chasing individual glory and credit”.
They said the commission, which has been at war since the lead-up to August 8, 2017 election, has become dysfunctional due to external interference.
"For too long and way too many times, the commission chair has failed to be the steady and stable hand that steers the ship in difficult times, and gives directions when needed,” they said in April.
But buoyed by Justice Okwany’s judgment on the composition of the commission, the two made a return yesterday.
In her judgment, Ms Okwany argued that the commission is properly constituted because other than a copy of the press statement released by Ms Roselyn Akombe and a copy of an unsigned joint resignation statement by the three colleagues, there was no other tangible evidence placed before the court to demonstrate that there were vacancies created, through resignation.
The application filed by a voter sought to have the High Court declare the commission, as presently constituted, illegal as a result of the resignation of four commissioners and hence it lacks the requisite quorum to conduct and carry out its business.
Yesterday, lawyer Ishmael Nyaribo questioned the commissioners’ return, terming it “unacceptable and immoral”.
“You just don’t walk out and come back and then expect to be paid for the period when you were away. It is a bad practice and on that basis alone it is completely unfair to the public,” he said.
Another lawyer Moses Kurgat said the action raises moral and ethical issues as Mr Chebukati, whom they had protested against, was still the agency’s chairman.
National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohammed said: “They told Kenyans of their resignation in broad daylight and it’s immoral for them to just walk back and claim their positions.”