Man on the spot

Che­bukati must choose ei­ther to be his own man and a pa­triot and save his coun­try — or an em­i­nently for­get­table par­ti­san wimp

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - FRONT PAGE - BY PA­TRICK LANG’AT palan­gat@ke.na­tion­media.com AND JULIUS SIGEI jsigei@ke.na­tion­media.com Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by John Ngirachu and Collins Omulo

The im­por­tance of ris­ing to the oc­ca­sion

Of­fi­cial stands as the first polls boss to have his re­sults an­nulled by a court

Now, more than ever be­fore, the destiny of Kenya rests in the hands of one man —Mr Wa­fula Wany­onyi Che­bukati — the self-ef­fac­ing chair­man of the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral and Bound­aries Com­mis­sion.

Kenyans are watch­ing with hope and anx­i­ety how the Trans Nzoiaborn lawyer will steer the na­tion through the re­peat elec­tions slated for Oc­to­ber 26.

Al­most en­tirely, it is he who will de­ter­mine if peace will hold be­fore or af­ter the elec­tion.

Mr Che­bukati has, how­ever, in the re­cent past, ap­peared like an iso­lated man, a lone gen­eral lead­ing sharply di­vided troops, push­ing him to hold back on mak­ing make-or-break de­ci­sions.

Six times since the Supreme Court an­nulled the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on Septem­ber 1, Mr Che­bukati’s ac­tions have been pub­licly ques­tioned by fel­low com­mis­sion­ers, politi­cians and Par­lia­ment — with re­ports of even more ac­ri­mo­nious dis­agree­ments in pri­vate.

This has ei­ther ex­posed his in­de­ci­sive­ness or painted the pic­ture of a man un­der siege from within the com­mis­sion and a coun­try crav­ing di­rec­tion from him.

The quick move to name Oc­to­ber 17 as the date of the re­peat poll, only to move it to Oc­to­ber 26, dis­rupted other im­por­tant na­tional pro­grammes such as the school cal­en­dar.

It also later emerged that in settling on the date, Mr Che­bukati had not con­sulted the polls tech­nol­ogy provider French firm Ot-mor­pho, which wrote back to him, say­ing it needed more time to get ready.

Even though the Supreme Court found no crim­i­nal cul­pa­bil­ity on Mr Che­bukati and his of­fi­cials, he goes into the an­nals of Kenya’s elec­toral his­tory as the first and the only chair­man — so far — to have his re­sults an­nulled.

Mr Che­bukati’s author­ity has also been chal­lenged in­ter­nally on, among oth­ers, a de­ci­sion to fire IT of­fi­cials, whom the com­mis­sion’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Ezra Chiloba a week later said were still in of­fice.

Ex­ter­nally, Mr Che­bukati has been ques­tioned on the set­ting up of a spe­cial team to man­age the poll and for ap­pear­ing be­fore a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee alone.

Mr Che­bukati is also run­ning a com­mis­sion that is leak­ing like a sieve.

Last week, ap­par­ently aware of the dif­fer­ences between Mr Che­bukati and a ma­jor­ity of the com­mis­sion­ers, an ad-hoc com­mit­tee of Par­lia­ment work­ing on elec­tion amend­ment laws sent him away and asked him to ei­ther go back with a signed mem­o­ran­dum with min­utes, or the rest of the com­mis­sion­ers.

Ap­par­ently, the MPS had known that the de­tails of Mr Che­bukati’s pre­sen­ta­tion had not been agreed on by the rest of the com­mis­sion­ers.

On Wed­nes­day, the com­mis­sion leaked out an un­signed state­ment giv­ing di­rec­tions on the Oc­to­ber 26 poll af­ter the High Court rul­ing or­dered the ad­mis­sion of Third­way Al­liance can­di­date Ekuru Aukot and the dra­matic with­drawal from the race of Nasa’s Raila Odinga on Tues­day. The Na­tion has learnt that the state­ment was leaked out af­ter Mr Che­bukati in­sisted on fur­ther con­sul­ta­tions even af­ter the state­ment had been put to a vote.

Yes­ter­day, trade union­ist Fran­cis At­woli ap­pealed to Mr Che­bukati to “take charge” at the com­mis­sion.

“The IEBC chair­man must be as­sertive as he is head­ing a con­sti­tu­tional com­mis­sion charged with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of guid­ing our elec­tions,” the Cen­tral Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Trade Unions sec­re­tary-gen­eral told jour­nal­ists in Nairobi.

The most pub­lic of the dis­agree­ments at the com­mis­sion was when on Septem­ber 5, Mr Che­bukati wrote a 12-page damn­ing memo to Mr Chiloba, the chief ex­ec­u­tive, be­fore four com­mis­sion­ers ganged up and dis­owned the show-cause let­ter.

“A quick pe­rusal of the memo shows that the al­le­ga­tions are based on some re­port or in­for­ma­tion that has not been brought to the at­ten­tion of the com­mis­sion,” the com­mis­sion­ers led by vice-chair­per­son Con­nie Nkatha Bucha said in the state­ment.

Since most of the is­sues in the leaked memo ap­peared sim­i­lar to what Mr Odinga raised in his Supreme Court pe­ti­tion, Nasa has re­peat­edly used the ugly episode to paint a pic­ture of a chair­man hang­ing by the thread — a good man, they say, who has been held hostage by Ju­bilee-lean­ing com­mis­sion­ers.

“It is now ev­i­dent that Ju­bilee is firmly in charge of IEBC through four com­mis­sion­ers who have set out to im­ple­ment the Ju­bilee agenda within the com­mis­sion,” Mr Odinga told jour­nal­ists at the Okoa Kenya of­fices in Lav­ing­ton, Nairobi, when he with­drew from the race.

He said the “con­ser­va­tive wing of the IEBC” had a firm grip on the op­er­a­tions of the com­mis­sion, with ev­ery de­ci­sion of the chair­man be­ing “coun­ter­manded”.

But sources within the IEBC told the Na­tion of a man they said was wellmean­ing and one who had pur­posed to reach out to all sides be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion.

How much this pre­var­i­ca­tion can be blamed on the lawyer or the push and pull within or with­out the com­mis­sion, can only re­main a mat­ter of con­jec­ture. But any more equiv­o­ca­tion from the chair­man only two weeks to poll day could be pre­par­ing the coun­try for an­other elec­tion fraught with peril.

An early riser and a man who has no qualms work­ing late, Mr Che­bukati has also been de­scribed by in­sid­ers at the com­mis­sion as “a man of or­der and de­tail, the diplo­matic type who feels the need to in­volve as many of the par­ties as pos­si­ble in de­ci­sions”.

Mr Che­bukati started his stint at the com­mis­sion by open­ing his arms and his doors to any of the po­lit­i­cal camps who sought to con­sult him and has since ap­peared dis­turbed that even with such an of­fer, politi­cians would still pros­e­cute him in pub­lic and in the me­dia.

Out­side IEBC, lit­tle is known of the ad­vo­cate who prac­tices from Agip House, the down­town of­fice where the doyen of op­po­si­tion pol­i­tics Jaramogi Oginga Odinga op­er­ated from.

The only time Mr Che­bukati took a high pro­file case was when he tried, un­suc­cess­fully, to de­fend the be­lea­guered for­mer Ethics and anti-cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion chief Philip Kin­isu.

The 56-year-old Univer­sity of Nairobi law grad­u­ate’s ad­mir­ers point to his “track record in (the) Kenya Golf Union both in Mom­basa and Nairobi.”

His crit­ics, how­ever, say he did not pros­e­cute his case well dur­ing the in­ter­view for the job, gar­ner­ing 63 marks against Mr Tukero Ole Kina’s 79.

IEBC boss must be as­sertive as he is head­ing a con­sti­tu­tional com­mis­sion charged with guid­ing our polls.” Fran­cis At­woli, Cotu boss

Wa­fula Che­bukati, IEBC chair­man. Kenyans are watch­ing with hope and anx­i­ety how the Trans Nzoiaborn lawyer will steer the na­tion through the re­peat elec­tion slated for Oc­to­ber 27.

Con­so­lata Nkatha Bucha Maina - Vice-chair­per­son

FILE | NA­TION

Mr Che­bukati has ap­peared like an iso­lated man lead­ing sharply di­vided troops as the clock ticks to­wards Oc­to­ber 26.

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