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Unending rows, intrigues that tainted IEBC’s credibility

Tuesday April 17 2018

FRED OLUOCH
By FRED OLUOCH
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The current Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) came into office in January 2017 as an outfit acceptable across the  political divide.

It was a product of a joint parliamentary committee — comprising Jubilee and the defunct Coalition for Reform and Democracy (Cord) members — that made a clear demarcation between the powers of the commissioners and that of the secretariat.

Unlike the previous one led by Mr Issack Hassan and which was forced to quit for bungling the 2013 elections, the current team led by Wafula Chebukati was seen as more representative.  It’s formation followed months of street protests by opposition supporters.

While the commission came in at the height of electioneering and highly competing interests that characterise election years, its work went on smoothly until the matter of award of tenders for printing ballot papers and electoral technology came up.

INFLUENCE TENDERS

It became clear that the commissioners were under pressure to influence some tenders from powerful forces outside the commission. This led to simmering frictions with the secretariat led by Ezra Chiloba that was responsible for the day-to-day running of the commission. 

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These competing interests were played out in the drama surrounding the award of the Sh2.5 billion contract to Dubai-based firm Al Ghurair Publishing Company for the printing of ballot papers in the run-up to the August 8, 2017 General Election.

The IEBC awarded Al Ghurair the contract in 2016, but Cord went to court in which the High Court declared in July that the electoral body had not complied with the Election laws.

It forced IEBC to go to the Court of Appeal to lift the order and pave the way for the elections.

CREDIBILITY

IEBC’s credibility to hold elections suffered a blow in late July, when its director of information, communication and technology, Mr Chris Msando, was abducted and murdered.

The death of Mr  Msando, a month to the elections, not only shook and intimidated the commission, but also fuelled doubts within the opposition coalition—the Nation Super Alliance (Nasa)—that the electoral body could hold credible elections.

The biggest blow for IEBC landed on September 1 when the Supreme Court nullified the August 8 presidential elections on grounds they were not held  according to the Constitution and existing election laws.

CHANGES

Turf wars soon emerged between Mr Chebukati and Mr Chiloba, on how to effect changes to take care of illegalities and irregularities cited by the Supreme Court.

Mr Chebukati sent an internal memo to Mr Chiloba asking him to explain what went wrong with the elections, which was leaked to the media.

The changes were not effected and Nasa ultimately boycotted the repeat election on October 26 saying that IEBC, as was constituted, could not hold credible elections.