By Steve Mkawale
Politicians are spoiling for a showdown with a panel hired to recruit Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials over alleged bias.
But Centre for Multi-Party Democracy (CMD) urged sobriety on the debate to avoid "bastardising the new IEBC even before it is born". "Care must be taken to avoid branding the new IEBC pro or anti one or more political sides. Stakeholders must listen to each other to avoid a stalemate or damaging acrimony in Parliament, or casting aspersions on the credibility of those eventually recruited. We have to end up with an IEBC that all have faith and confidence in to avoid a repeat of the 2007 mess, where one side felt the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) was serving the other," said CMD Chairman Justin Muturi.
The short-listing of candidates for IEBC commissioners has kicked off a controversy around the criteria used to pick the candidates. Politicians have raised issues with the criteria, claiming that it locked out some commissioners serving in the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), who had proved their worth by conducting a free and fair referendum last year and several by-elections.
Some claim the exclusion of experienced IIEC commissioners was a plan to rig the 2012 election, accusing the panel headed by Dr Ekuru Aukot of not being sincere. But those who support the short-listed candidates say Ekuru's team could not deny qualified persons a chance because of vested interests. But Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta questioned the exclusion of most of the IIEC commissioners, saying they had done a good job and had won the confidence of many.
"They had proved their worth by conducting a free and fair referendum and several by-elections. They ought to be given a chance to serve in the new body. It is surprising to see them ignored and dismissed as unqualified. This matter must be handled with care,'' the Finance minister said in Meru. Five MPs who kicked off the storm last week argued a commissioner who spearheaded the electronic voter registration in IIEC, as well as 'highly qualified individuals from upper Eastern' in the interim body, were unfairly left out.
Although the leaders have denied allegations they were rooting for particular individuals to sit in the new election team, their utterances were to the contrary.
Konoin MP Julius Kones termed the list 'unfair' pointing out that even the commissioner, who came up with the new mode of voter registration, did not make it to the list. "There must be transparency in the process. So far it looks like the list is unfair, it looks like the list has been predetermined," argued Kones. They seemed to refer to former IIEC commissioner Tia Galgalo from Isiolo and Hamara Shabaan from North Eastern and David Chirchir.
Mr Chirchir is an ICT expert who helped IIEC shop for an electronic voting system. The MPs, who included Abdul Bahari, Mohamed Mahmoud, Peris Simam and Kones, demanded the panel repeats the short-listing exercise to accommodate commissioners who served in IIEC and the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission (IIBRC).
North Horr MP Chachu Ganya claimed some of the 'highly qualified' individuals from upper Eastern Province, who applied to be members of the commission were left out. "We are doubting the independence of the process. People from Upper Eastern who were highly qualified have been left out.
They have done this for their own reasons. Our confidence is low on this panel," said Chachu.
Embakasi MP Ferdinand Waititu gave an indication of what views the PNU alliance had on the short-listed candidates when he said the alliance won't support any of its nominees. He accused the panel of playing politics.
Speaking in the presence of Uhuru in Nithi on Friday, Tigania East MP Peter Munya, drove the point home saying: ''We will oppose the list that comes out of a flawed process.'' The CMD chairman said threats and rhetoric that escalate the controversy should be avoided and an intervention sought. "A stalemate in Parliament not only sends worrying signals to the country, but also delays the process of putting an IEBC in place to start its crucial job of preparing the country for elections," Muturi said.
Last week, the Ekurru's panel announced the list of 44 short listed candidates, three of them former members of the IIEC.
Three others came from the defunct Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission (IIBRC). Those selected from IIEC were Yusuf Nzibo, Simiyu Wasike and Kennedy Nyaundi while Mwenda Makathimo, Abdullahi Sharawe and Jedidah Ntoyai were commissioners of IIBRC. The new electoral team will have eight commissioners and a chairperson. Interviews are scheduled to start on September 26, and the panel is expected to come up with a list of 13 names and forward them to the two principals who will pick eight names for vetting by Parliament.
"There was never any interference with the process. We had very thorough selection criteria. We had a first, second and third selection before we came up with the final list of 44. In fact, we have a report for each stage and we will make them available," Ekuru says. The position for the chairman of the commission was re-advertised after only four people applied.
The new body shall be charged with conducting elections and referenda, and ensure continuous registration of citizens as voters. It shall also ensure the regular revision of the voters' roll, the delimitation of constituencies and wards, the regulation of the process by which parties nominate candidates for elections and the settlement of electoral disputes.Last Edited: Tue 20th September 2011 at 10:19:49 AM