IEBC’s dilemma in Wetang’ula bribery saga

By: JUSTUS WANGA

Pitted against an opposition that sees it as holding a brief for the Jubilee administration, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is in a serious dilemma whether to delete Coalition for Reform and Democracy (Cord) leader Moses Wetang’ula from the voters’ roll or not.

Expunging the name would give Cord yet another opportunity to advance the narrative that the commission is biased against it, a view they have held since President Uhuru Kenyatta won the 2013 elections.

The Sunday Nation has learnt that the Commission Chairman Issack Hassan has called at least four meetings at Anniversary Towers the commission’s headquartered on the matter, which have all failed to conclude the issue.

Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro last month gazetted court findings that the Bungoma Senator bribed voters in the March 2013 polls, paving the way for the commission to consider deregistering him as a voter.

Such an action would effectively knock him out of elective politics in 2017.

So huge is the premium the commission is attaching to this matter that we have information that other than advice of a pool of experts from within, it is seeking external opinion on the best way to navigate through this issue with the potential to leave it exposed with slightly less than two years to the next elections.

As he would be presiding over elections before he proceeds to retirement since his terms ends around November 2017, two months after elections, Mr Hassan would want to avoid antagonising any of the competing sides.

In an environment clouded with suspicion such as this, in whatever decision the commission settles on, it will have to demonstrate to the public that it was void of external influence.

THROTTLING WETANG’ULA’S CAREER

Opposition politicians have started crying foul that the government is keen to shutter the senator’s political career.

The thinking in Cord is that having been on the senator’s side throughout the cases at High Court, Appellate Court and the Supreme Court and as respondents, any ruling to the contrary would be seen as redacting their own argument throughout the cases that Mr Wetang’ula had been a senator elected fairly.

Although this is not a legal consideration as such, the stature of Mr Wetang’ula who is Cord co-principal means that locking him out would give the opposition a platform to incite their supporters against the IEBC.

The opposition has never forgiven the electoral commission after the presidential poll in 2013 that they feel was skewed in favour of the ruling Jubilee alliance and has severally called for its total overhaul.

In fact, to avoid a situation where the commission ends up with an all powerful chairman like it is today, Cord in its Okoa Kenya referendum drive is proposing that IEBC commissioners will now elect the chair from amongst themselves and pegs the term limit to 12 months.

On Friday evening, the Commission Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba signalled that the Wetang’ula case was not the kind of matter to be rushed over.

“Since it is a process I can’t tell how soon it will be concluded but we will eventually close it,” he told the Sunday Nation.

Siaya Senator James Orengo, Mr Wetang’ula’s lead lawyer in the case, said he has written to the IEBC drawing their attention to the Supreme Court judgement that reversed a decision by the Court of Appeal, which had disqualified the senator from vying in the 2017 General Elections.

“He is now in senate courtesy of the December 2013 by-election which was not contested. It would be unfair to punish him now having been forced to defend his seat after the court annulled his first victory,” Mr Orengo said.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION