The electoral commission was on Wednesday headed for a fresh crisis after the appointment of a team to manage the repeat presidential elections provoked internal divisions within the agency and rejection by the major political players.
On Wednesday, it emerged that some members of the commission were unhappy with the manner in which their chairman, Mr Wafula Chebukati, went about naming the seven-member team under his supervision to manage the repeat poll.
The commissioners were reported to have complained that they did not know about the appointments and saw the announcement on the news late Tuesday.
Mr Chebukati on the other hand pointedly said that he had appointed the team in his capacity as the constitutionally mandated Returning Officer for the presidential election.
The changes, done by Mr Chebukati without any consultations with the rest of the commissioners, would be open court action.
On Wednesday evening, Bloomberg quoted Commissioner Roselyn Akombe attributing the naming of the new team to a refusal by senior officials to quit after being seen to have mishandled the annulled election. She was reported saying that the chairman had named a team “that he has confidence in”.
There have also been arguments within the commission on whether the IEBC would be seen to be truly independent if it was to bend to the will of politicians and adjust its staffing and plans to suit their demands and wishes.
By pushing the chief executive officer, Mr Ezra Chiloba, aside, the chairman also placed Mr Chiloba, the commission’s accounting officer, in the awkward position of having to sign off on expenditure for activities he has not taken part in planning.
Outside the commission, pressure began to be felt from the National Super Alliance and the Jubilee Party, which both claimed some of those in the team had been involved in actions that showed they could not be trusted.
Jubilee Party’s secretary general Raphael Tuju said in a letter to Mr Chebukati: “After publication of the names of your election project team, we have received credible information that in the list are people known to be partisan.”
Mr Tuju named nine staff members, two among them — Marjan Hussein and Salome Oyugi — are in Mr Chebukati’s team. He said the people on his list “are known to be partisan”.
But in a reply, Mr Chebukati rubbished the list provided by Jubilee, insisting that the IEBC was an independent body. “It is therefore unacceptable for you to provide a list of staff that you direct should not be members of the project team,” he said.
On their part, Nasa said some of those named in the team were involved in the issues noted by the registrar of the Supreme Court in the reports after scrutiny of the Forms 34A and 34B and the attempts to access the servers used to process the results of the annulled election. Nasa did not name those it objected to. There was a message circulated on mobile messaging applications detailing the alleged ills of the members of the team, but which was not verified.
Both Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta did not speak about the matter. A statement from State House said the President met envoys as well as religious leaders.
Manoah Esipisu, the President’s spokesman, said in his statement that the President told the elders of “his concern that elections must be held on the date set by the IEBC to allow primary and secondary school examinations to take place in time, and not to interfere with the academic cycle in the coming year.”
On Thursday, the commission is scheduled to meet Nasa, which has also opposed the gazetted October 17 elections date, and the new list of the poll officials, instead calling for an overhaul of the system before the repeat poll.
“The principals will meet the IEBC on, among other things, the date of the election, how it will be conducted and the new team managing it,” Nasa’s national campaign committee executive director Kibisu Kabatesi said.
Mr Chebukati also asked to meet the Jubilee team on Thursday, saying this was in keeping with his open-door policy.
On Thursday, the commission was deliberating on the effects of the changes, and what will happen to those in the secretariat carrying out the same duties that have now been given to individuals in the project team.
“We are still consulting on that,” Dr Akombe told the Nation when asked whether those whose jobs have been hived off will still be working, and what their duties will be.
IEBC communications manager Andrew Limo said that unless specified by the commission, the other staff will remain in office even as the project team takes charge of the October 17 poll.
In picking the new project team to man the repeat poll, sources said, Mr Chebukati was keen on addressing concerns raised in the Supreme Court petition that invalidated the August 8 election, while avoiding a direct conflict with the secretariat by not firing its top officials.
To man the crucial ICT team, and who will report directly to him, Mr Chebukati picked Kitui County returning officer Albert Gogo to replace James Muhati, with his Kisii counterpart Dr Sidney Namulungu picked to replace Deputy CEO Betty Nyabuto Sungura as head of operations.
Mr Chebukati also merged the jobs done by Immaculate Kasait and her junior Mwaura Kamwati and placed Mombasa Returning Officer Nancy Kariuki in charge of logistics.
Samburu County returning officer Bernard Misati Moseti was picked to replace Anne Nderitu as head of training — a critical part in the repeat poll given the massive clerical mistakes made by the polling officials in the August 8 elections.
At the same time, Nakuru County returning officer Silas Rotich was named as the head of the national tallying centre to replace Dr Catherine Kamindo.
Ms Salome Oyugi was picked from the legal team to head the department in the project, functions that were done by her boss, Praxedes Tororey.