Chairman Wafula Chebukati and what remains of his outfit should not inflict his leadership on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission one second more. He and the remaining two commissioners — Prof Abdi Guliye and Mr Boya Molu — should immediately resign and provide an opportunity to select a new team.
After Monday’s resignation of three commissioners — Ms Connie Nkatha Maina, Mrs Margaret Mwachanya and Dr Paul Kurgat — meaning that four of the seven members have since quit, Mr Chebukati’s position is untenable. Legally, he does not have the majority required to conduct business without the risk of litigation and endless disputation. And an attempt to replace those who have resigned would just be ludicrous.
The IEBC, for all intents and purposes, is dead — and at a time when it is required to conduct the scheduled boundaries review. Yet Kenyans had such high hopes that after the violence of 2007/8, largely caused by the bungling of the elections, and the subsequent revamp of the electoral system, those entrusted with election management would be patriotic, sober, impartial and careful not to take the country back to those dark days of death and pain.
It was also hoped that the days of runaway corruption at the commission would be a thing of the past, and that efforts would be made to keep procurement clean and above board to protect elections and their integrity. It is disappointing that the IEBC has become a theatre of the absurd, an arena for drama and brinksmanship, a swamp of procurement intrigue, a place where even the smallest of issues is settled by acrimonious votes and a fertile ground for destructive partisanship, vicious rivalry and backstabbing.
Which is a terrible shame since the IEBC had shown some promise of professionalism in the management of elections and the complex logistics that go with it. Indeed, in terms of the use of biometrics for voter identification and conduct of the election, the IEBC has been praised for doing a fairly good job, a situation only vacated by the finding of the Supreme Court that there were “illegalities and irregularities” in the vote.
But there were danger signs that all was not quite as it should be only months into its tenure. The brutal and still unexplained murder of IT manager Chris Msando, only weeks to the polling, and the shock and somewhat dramatic resignation of commissioner Roselyn Akombe exactly 10 days to polling exposed an institution in the grip of the most dangerous instability and intrigue.
After the presidential election was nullified, Mr Chebukati wrote a memo to CEO Ezra Chiloba demanding an explanation for a variety of complaints — a memo that was quickly disowned by five commissioners.
That became the formula of conducting business. Mr Chebukati lacked the support of the majority and was outvoted at every turn, leading to his threat to quit. When it was questioned whether the IEBC was ready to run a fresh poll and the matter taken to the Supreme Court, it was far from certain if he was confident that it was.
It was because of the fear that he would resign and plunge the country into a constitutional crisis that Jubilee Party, in a much-criticised move, changed the election law to allow the vice-chairperson to take over as the national returning officer for the presidential poll should the chairman become unavailable.
This unreliability is a fatal flow. Kenyans need a commission that will put electoral honesty and the country’s welfare above ego clashes and tender fights. Mr Chebukat and his whole lot must now go.