Kenya: Reform IEBC to Avoid Future Political Chaos

editorial

For the umpteenth time, we revisit the question of reforming the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) because it is a matter of grave importance. The commission is operating delicately and the country's future is at risk unless the desired reforms are undertaken early enough to allow for proper preparation for the next election.

IEBC is hamstrung because it does not have the required number of commissioners. Neither does it have a chief executive due to several legal suits.

The more urgent issue is to recruit commissioners to give the agency full authority to carry out its mandate. At present, there are only three commissioners, including the chairman Wafula Chebukati, since five others walked away two years ago.

There are questions on whether the trio meets the threshold required for the commission to make policy decisions. It means, therefore, that the commission can only deal with routine and administrative matters but nothing that involves policy.

Yet there are critical activities that the commission is expected to execute. First is review of the boundaries, which is a constitutional requirement, but cannot be done in the present circumstances. The legal requirement is that constituencies have to be reviewed every 10 years and outcomes published a year before the next election.

The last boundary review was done and gazetted in 2012, a year before the 2013 General Election. Accordingly, the next review is due before 2022, which means it should start now and be concluded and gazetted next year. This is not possible in the prevailing scenario.

Second, there are talks of conducting a referendum arising out of the recommendations of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that is spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition Leader Odinga, which fact would require a fully constituted IEBC. Some of the BBI proposals require constitutional review, hence a referendum. Even without the referendum, the commission is not in good shape and form to administer the next general election due in 2022.

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