Cord claims IEBC, Ruto, Mucheru in se­cret talks

Elec­tion com­mis­sion says it has not en­gaged in im­proper meet­ings as the op­po­si­tion is al­leg­ing

The Star (Kenya) - - Front Page - FELIX OLICK @olick­fe­lix

Cord yes­ter­day launched a new broad­side against the IEBC and said top Ju­bilee lead­ers are se­cretly meet­ing elec­toral agency bosses to in­flu­ence the 2017 polls.

The op­po­si­tion claimed Deputy Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Ruto and ICT Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Joe Mucheru are hold­ing in­for­mal meet­ings with IEBC to sway the on­go­ing re­cruit­ment of seven new elec­toral chiefs.

Cord co-chair­men Sen­a­tors James Orengo and Johnson Muthama and MP Eseli Simiyu also al­leged the pro-Ju­bilee meet­ings aim to block the full and com­pre­hen­sive im­ple­men­ta­tion of new elec­toral laws that make rig­ging more dif­fi­cult.

Yes­ter­day Ruto rub­bished the al­le­ga­tions, call­ing them more empty and de­struc­tive op­po­si­tion pro­pa­ganda.

Yes­ter­day the IEBC also de­nied any im­proper con­tacts but did not deny a meet­ing be­tween Ruto, Mucheru and top IEBC bosses.

Mucheru, a tech­nol­ogy ex­pert, was poached late last year by Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta from tech gi­ant Google where he was head of Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa op­er­a­tions.

“We are in­formed Ju­bilee is op­posed to the ap­point­ment to the com­mis­sion of Kenyans who are pa­tri­otic and pro­gres­sive and have a back­ground and history of fight­ing for re­form and change in Kenya,” the three said in a joint state­ment yes­ter­day.

The state­ment was the first salvo in the Ju­bilee-Cord wars to con­trol re­cruit­ment of new IEBC chiefs. It is spear­headed by an in­de­pen­dent se­lec­tion panel.

The Elec­tion Laws (Amend­ment) Act 2016 favours Ju­bilee, as Pres­i­dent Keny­atta will be given a list of 11 can­di­dates to choose seven for the com­mis­sion. He also names the chief

Ac­cord­ing to the op­po­si­tion, the IEBC sec­re­tariat staff — still in of­fice and “yet to be vet­ted for good be­hav­iour” — is work­ing in ca­hoots with out­go­ing com­mis­sion­ers to ex­e­cute dirty deals.

Cord forced re­place­ment of the IEBC, say­ing it botched the last elec­tion, was hope­lessly bi­ased in favour of Ju­bilee and was plan­ning to rig the next polls.

But Ruto de­nounced the state­ment, cit­ing Cord’s “de­struc­tive ten­dency of cast­ing as­per­sions on any­one, ev­ery­one and any­thing”.

“Cord has made it loud and clear it will not ac­cept next year’s gen­eral elec­tion if their can­di­date does not win,” Ruto’s press Sec­re­tary David Mu­gonyi yes­ter­day told the Star.

“Not once. Not twice, they have told Kenyans in their end­less press con­fer­ences, which lack any agenda, and week­end funeral cir­cuits, that they will cause violence if they do not win.”

IEBC Com­mu­ni­ca­tions manager Andrew Limo told the Star it is not aware of the com­mis­sion en­gag­ing im­prop­erly with any political party as al­leged.

“Our en­gage­ments are for­mal and above board,” Limo said in a brief text. He did not deny the DP, Mucheru and top IEBC bosses have met.

But in their state­ment yes­ter­day, the three op­po­si­tion lead­ers ac­cused IEBC of push­ing to post­pone the Au­gust 8, 2017, elec­tions.

They also said IEBC is un­der­min­ing the spirit of the new elec­toral laws and has al­ready sent amend­ments to Par­lia­ment to undo key re­forms.

“There will be no elec­tions un­less the en­tire le­gal regime, in­clud­ing the use of tech­nol­ogy in an in­te­grated elec­tronic elec­toral sys­tem, is fully im­ple­mented and con­duct of free and fair elec­tions is guar­an­teed,” Eseli warned.

Ju­bilee, Cord warned, should not al­low a re­peat of strife, ac­ri­mony and re­turn of political ac­tion to the streets, warn­ing it will not ac­cept uni­lat­eral amend­ments, of even a comma, in the law.

In an IEBC strat­egy pa­per ob­tained by the Star, the com­mis­sion says time­lines in the new elec­toral Act are not fea­si­ble and warns the law can dis­rupt poll prepa­ra­tions.

“The new amend­ments to the elec­tion law have far-reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions for man­age­ment of elec­tions, espe­cially 2017,” IEBC ad­mits in its doc­u­ment. “The ma­jor chal­lenge will be around man­ag­ing the ac­qui­si­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of tech­nol­ogy.”

The law, for in­stance, re­quires an in­te­grated elec­tronic elec­toral sys­tem. This means bio­met­ric voter reg­is­tra­tion (BVR) kits, elec­tronic voter iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (EVID) kits and the re­sults trans­mis­sion sys­tem (RTS) must be in­te­grated — an enor­mous and com­pli­cated task.

The sys­tem is yet to be ac­quired 10 months to the polls, yet the law re­quires all tech­nol­ogy be pro­cured eight months to the elec­tions.

Also at the heart of the Cord tus­sle

with IEBC are the au­dit of the voter reg­is­ter, 2017 pro­cure­ment be­fore new com­mis­sion­ers are in­stalled and de­vel­op­ment of ICT reg­u­la­tions to put the act into ef­fect.

Yes­ter­day, the three Cord leg­is­la­tors claimed IEBC in­tends to en­gage a less than rep­utable firm to au­dit the voter reg­is­ter.

The firm, they said, will carry out a ran­dom in­spec­tion of the voter’s roll in a pub­lic re­la­tions ex­er­cise to hood­wink the pub­lic that the con­tro­ver­sial reg­is­ter is ac­cu­rate.

Dur­ing the painstak­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions on elec­toral re­forms, the House team agreed to hire “a rep­utable pro­fes­sional firm” to con­duct an in­de­pen­dent foren­sic au­dit of the reg­is­ter.

The Raila Odinga-led coali­tion also claimed the IEBC has de­vel­oped op­por­tu­ni­ties for “a sec­ond Chick­enGate” — an IEBC bribery scan­dal — through multi-bil­lion shilling pro­cure­ment be­fore new com­mis­sion­ers are sworn in.

They are de­mand­ing the IEBC halt ev­ery ex­er­cise cur­rently un­der­taken in re­gard to elec­tion laws.

“This in­cludes the ad­ver­tise­ment and the award of ten­ders for elec­tion ma­te­ri­als,” Eseli said.

The IEBC has al­ready ten­dered for high-value 2017 pro­cure­ment, in­clud­ing bal­lot pa­pers.

How­ever, yes­ter­day, Limo said the new law has tight time­lines the com­mis­sion “is busy im­ple­ment­ing”.

“There is no bet­ter way to demon­strate our commitment than to pre­pare as guided by the law,” the IEBC Com­mu­ni­ca­tions manager said.

Cord also rub­bished draft ICT reg­u­la­tions de­vel­oped by the IEBC, say­ing they fall far below the stan­dard en­vis­aged in law.

The reg­u­la­tions, Cord al­leged, are strate­gi­cally de­signed by the IEBC to dodge over­sight by in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing political par­ties, and de­manded their im­me­di­ate with­drawal.

/ JACK OWUOR

Wiper Party Leader Kalonzo Musyoka with Peter Mathuki dur­ing the NEC meet­ing yes­ter­day when the party urged the IEBC to lease rather than buy the tech­nol­ogy in man­age­ment of the 2017 gen­eral elec­tion. They urged Kenyans to stand up against cor­rup­tion that has rocked the Ju­bilee ad­min­is­tra­tion

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