IEBC Chair Isaac Hassan
Four electoral commissioners have offered to resign just as Parliament is getting ready for talks on the future of the commission after demands by Cord that all the nine top bosses be sent home ahead of the 2017 General Election.
Sources revealed that commissioners Yusuf Nzibo, Albert Bwire, Kule Galma Godana and Abdullahi Sharawe had written to President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday this week declaring their readiness to quit. The four said they wanted to avoid being dragged through the process initiated by Parliament to remove them from office.
The letter was delivered to the Head of the Public Service, Mr Joseph Kinyua, on Wednesday.
Their decision has split the IEBC because the other five commissioners including Chairman Issack Hassan have resolved to stay put and adopt “a wait and see” position.
“It is true they wrote a letter on Tuesday. They don’t want further delays,” said a source at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Dr Nzibo and Mr Sharawe did not answer calls from the Nation. The former sent a text message saying: “Sorry, I can’t talk right now”.
Besides Mr Hassan, the commissioners who have opted to stay are Vice Chairperson Lilian Mahiri-Zaja, Mr Thomas Letangule, Mr Muthoni Wangai and Mr Mohamed Alawi Hussun.
Yesterday, a source in the Presidency said the resignation letter had not been received “and is not expected”. The source also said that a vacuum at IEBC “would be undesirable”.
Commissioners held a meeting on Monday where the issue of voluntary resignation was discussed at length. However, they failed to reach a unanimous decision.
“The four decided they no longer want to be the topic of political discussion,” said a source.
As part of their condition for resigning, the four have asked to be paid a cumulative sum of the salaries they would have earned had they served their entire term. They also want to be paid gratuity for the work they have done and additional payment as compensation because they feel their reputations have been damaged. In offering to leave office quietly, the commissioners believe they have served the country according to their oath of office and the Constitution and have made the decision in the interest of the country. A source said commissioners were also afraid that the political temperatures could easily escalate to violence and destruction of property, with serious consequences to the economy. They also said they would not want to see the country go back to a situation similar to the 2007-8 post-election violence.
Furthermore, the four are said to have argued that leaving early would give their successors adequate time to prepare for next year’s General Election. Their letter to the President emphasises that their decision was in good faith. They asked the President to consider their offer as a nationalistic gesture.
Those offering to quit also brought to the attention of the President that the Constitution dictated they could only be removed from office after being investigated by tribunals. To them that could be a lengthy process, starting with petitions to Parliament and setting up individual tribunals to investigate each commissioner. The process, they reasoned, is bound to consume time and money and the commissioners would still be free to challenge the recommendations in court.
In a related development, Jubilee and Cord leaders yesterday finalised preparations for a Motion to give the mandate to the select committee that will investigate the IEBC to be tabled on Tuesday next week.
Jubilee reduced its 11-member team to seven; Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi, senators Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet, URP), Beatrice Elachi (nominated, APK) and MPs Naomi Shaban (Taveta, TNA), Mohammud Mohammed (Mandera East, URP) and Jimmy Angwenyi (Kitutu Chache North, TNA).
The announcement was made in Parliament last evening by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale and his Senate counterpart, Prof Kithure Kindiki.
Cord named its representatives as senators James Orengo (Siaya, ODM) and Johnson Muthama (Machakos, Wiper) and MPs Junet Mohammed (Suna East, ODM), Mishi Mboko (Mombasa Woman Rep, ODM), Prof Hellen Sambili (Mogotio, Kanu), Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Makueni, Wiper) and Dr Eseli Simiyu (Tongaren, Ford-K).
The Motion to have the committee set up will be presented to the two committees of the National Assembly and Senate that set the agenda at their meetings on Tuesday morning. Once the names are approved, the select committee could start working on Wednesday or Thursday.
The two Majority Leaders said the creation of the committee had been a compromise from the Jubilee Coalition as all the work it has been given can be undertaken by Parliament.
Mr Duale ruled out claims that President Kenyatta and Cord leader Raila Odinga would address a joint press conference to rally support for the final product of the select committee.
Mr Duale said that while the Jubilee Coalition had insisted that all this could be done by committees in Parliament, they ceded ground to spare the country trouble.
“For us, the IEBC is not a big issue. For us, it is the people of Kenya who vote, so we want to go sell our policies,” said Mr Duale.