Kenya's polling body officials to exit office ahead of election

Wednesday August 03 2016

Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Issack Hassan (second right) addresses the media at the agency's offices in Nairobi on May 5, 2016. He is flanked by IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba (second left) and commissioners Kule Galma Godana and Thomas Letangule. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Commissioners in Kenya's polling body have finally agreed to leave office after months of anxiety regarding their fate as the country inches closer to the 2017 elections.

The nine commissioners, led by Chairman Issack Hassan, on Wednesday told a joint parliamentary committee comprising members of the country's National Assembly and the Senate that they are ready to leave office through a political settlement for the sake of peace.

That means the joint committee, co-chaired by Senators Kiraitu Murungi and James Orengo, will now have to craft a bill that allows the commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to leave office before the end of their term in September 2017 as part of the larger electoral reforms.

“We have been pleading with the commissioners to be patriotic and leave peacefully to enable the country hold peaceful elections in 2017. Kenya is a peaceful country and we don’t want a repeat of the 2007 post–election violence,” said Mr Kiraitu in final address to the committee Wednesday.

The joint committee was formed in June after a five weeks of street protests by the opposition led by Raila Odinga.

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It has been having a public hearing for the last one month, looking at allegations of bias and corruption that have been levelled against the IEBC commissioners.

The decision to voluntary leave office without following the constitutional provision for a tribunal has now put an end to the hearing joint committee.

However, the House team still must draft a bill that allows the commissioners and also come up with answers to the proposals that have been given by the commissioners and other stakeholders.

Among the decisions will include whether to let the IEBC Secretariat continues with its work as suggested by the commissioners, whether the incoming commissioners will be full time and the fate of the voter-register.

Other issues the committee will tackle include the use of technology and results transmission, the question whether individuals within the outgoing commission will bear criminal responsibility for election related crimes if found culpable.

The voluntary exit of the commissioners would be a major climb-down from their earlier position where they maintained that they can only be removed through a tribunal.