By Alex Olick for the Star
The embattled top brass of the electoral agency are considering quitting as relentless pressure from the opposition and numerous non-state institutions reaches a crescendo
The Star has established that four of nine IEBC members have privately agreed to hang up their boots — on condition they are fully paid for their six-year term, including gratuity. The others are uncertain.
The details emerged just a day after opposition chiefs led by Raila Odinga announced a series of countrywide protests and sit-ins against the agency, in another push to send home the commissioners.
Cord and others say the IEBC is biased in favour of Jubilee, participated in election-rigging, is likely to do so again and cannot conduct a free and fair poll on August 8 next year. Cord says the IEBC and Jubilee colluded to sink its Okoa Kenya referendum bid.
The Law Society of Kenya, the human rights commission, labour unions, the National Council of Churches and numerous political figures want a new electoral agency.
The Star has learnt the commissioners want consensus from both Jubilee and Cord that they should vacate office.
“There is a feeling among them [commissioners] that they need to go. But of course they want it to be an understanding between both Jubilee and Cord,” a senior IEBC insider told the Star, adding they are very keen on their packages.
According to this source, the IEBC also do not want to be seen to be throwing in the towel, succumbing to pressure from Cord.
There has been speculation Jubilee had offered the team Sh25 million each to go home.
The commissioners reportedly said no at that time.
The term for the current IEBC bosses expires in November next year, meaning commissioners have 18 more months to draw salaries and allowances.
This means that sending home, compensating and replacing commissioners will consume will an enormous amount of taxpayers’ money.
In addition to chairman Isaak assan, the commissioners are Lillian Mahiri-Zaja (vice chair), Albert Bwire, Kule Godana, Yusuf Nzibo, Abdullahi Sharawe, Thomas Letangule, Muthoni Wangai and Mohamed Alawi.
The Law Society of Kenya says Hassan should voluntarily step down, citing a corruption probe against him. It says removal of commissions must follow procedure set forth in the constitution.
“Given that the general elections are 16 months away, this situation is now a threat to democracy and requires the most urgent action,” LSK President Isaac Okero warned on Wednesday. “The IEBC chairman must voluntarily step down as corruption investigations remain pending…It is imperative that the IEBC be reconstituted.”
In public, however, the IEBC bosses have maintained they will not resign, despite an onslaught from key electoral players.
“If at the sight of trouble we ran away, we are going to destroy the legacy and the history of this commission. So we owe it to the future of the commission and the country to stay strong against those who are attacking us,” Hassan said late last month.
Apart from Cord and LSK, a host of institutions have warned IEBC could sink the country if allowed to conduct the 2017 polls.
These include the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions and the National Council of Churches of Kenya.
Five presidential contenders in the last election have also declared the IEBC must go.
Raila, Musalia Mudavadi, Peter Kenneth, Martha Karua and Prof James Ole Kiyiapi are among former contenders who want the agency reconstituted.
Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and ex-Council of Governors Chairman Isaac Rutto say they have no faith in the agency.
“There is only one solution to the IEBC dilemma: negotiate, negotiate and negotiate!” Prof Kiyapi recommended.
Even President Uhuru Kenyatta’s political lieutenants are divided over the future of the IEBC.
While criticising Cord’s “protest mode” of removing the commissioners by storming offices and staging sit-ins, Mukurweini MP Kabando wa Kabando said the IEBC must be reconstituted.
However, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said that as a coalition, Jubilee is keen on assisting IEBC to deliver a credible election.
“The Kreigler Commission recommended a commission be in place two years to the election. We are already short of the two years,” he said.
However, KNCHR has warned that only three out of 10 Kenyans have confidence the IEBC will carry out credible elections.
Late last year, an Ipsos poll indicated that 58 per cent of respondents want the IEBC commissioners replaced.
“Kenya cannot afford another wave of violence or mere police intervention to restrain a disgruntled citizenry from systemic electoral malfunctions,” said NCCK general secretary Canon Peter Karanja.
Addressing a press conference in Nairobi on Tuesday, Raila and co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula said they will occupy all IEBC offices in major towns across the country on Tuesday next week.
“Subsequently, we shall assemble at the [IEBC Headquarters] Anniversary Towers every Monday,” Raila said.
Cord demos are planned for Mombasa, Garissa, Machakos, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kakamega and Kisii. Other towns are Narok, Lodwar, Meru, Isiolo, Nyeri and Kitale.
They reiterated their assertion that Jubilee did not win the 2013 polls fair and square and accused electoral agency of aiding the fraud. Uhuru won with 50.05 per cent of the vote in 2013.
“It is now an incontrovertible fact that Jubilee did not win the presidential elections in 2013 but were declared victorious through a conspiracy hatched by IEBC, elements in the Supreme Court and the security agencies,” Wetang’ula said.
But should the IEBC commissioners quit, the hardest task will be how to put together a new team.
The Cord brigade insists the new electoral team should be chosen by the political parties, in order of their numerical strength in Parliament.
If that were to happen, TNA, URP, ODM, Wiper, UDF, Ford Kenya and New Ford Kenya would each nominate a candidate.
The Cord proposal is similar to the 1997 election’s Inter-Party Parliamentary Group pact, a part of minimum reforms whereby Kanu, DP, Ford Kenya, Ford Asili and Safina each nominated a candidate for the now-defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya.
“The moment you introduce representatives of political parties as commissioners of IEBC, then you will cause a lot of problems to that commission,” warns IEBC commissioner Thomas Letangule, giving the example of Zanzibar.