On February 14, President William Ruto declared vacancies in the positions of the chairperson of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and five other commissioners in a Gazette notice. The vacancies were previously held by Chairman Wafula Chebukati, Vice Chairperson Juliana Cherera, Commissioners Boya Molu, Abdi Guliye, Francis Wanderi, and Justus Nyang’aya. Chebukati, Molu, and Guliye retired after serving their full terms in January 2023. Cherea, Wanderi, and Nyang’aya resigned amid ongoing investigations into the August 2022 General Election. Commissioner Irene Masit still occupies her position as a commissioner awaiting her fate after Justice Aggrey Muchelule was picked to chair a tribunal probing the conduct of the commission.
According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act, the President is required to appoint a seven-member team for the appointment of the chairperson or member of the Commission. Chebukati, Guliye, and Molu were part of the commission that oversaw the 2017 and 2022 General Elections, both of which were contested at the Supreme Court. The trio worked with former vice chairperson Connie Nkatha Maina and commissioners Roselyn Akombe, Margaret Mwachanya, and Paul Kurgat, who all resigned from the electoral body after the 2022 General Election.
Chebukati’s watch saw the nullification of the 2017 election, which was won by former President Uhuru Kenyatta after Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party Leader Raila Odinga successfully petitioned the Supreme Court. In 2022, Raila once again petitioned the Supreme Court, challenging William Ruto’s win, but lost after the apex court affirmed the credibility of the August 2022 Presidential Election.
President Ruto exercised the powers conferred by section 7A (2) of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act as read with Paragraph 1 (1) of the first schedule of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act to declare the vacancies. The vacancies have sparked interest among political parties, with some calling for the inclusion of an independent selection panel in the recruitment of new commissioners.
The National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi said that the process of selecting the new IEBC officials should be transparent and in line with the Constitution. Muturi called for the establishment of an independent panel to oversee the recruitment process to ensure that the IEBC is reconstituted with credible and competent individuals.
The African Centre for Open Governance (AFRICOG) also weighed in on the issue, saying that the selection of new commissioners should be based on merit and competence. AFRICOG Executive Director Gladwell Otieno urged the President to ensure that the recruitment process is not politicized. Otieno also called on the President to ensure that the IEBC is given adequate resources to carry out its mandate effectively.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also issued a statement, expressing its commitment to supporting the IEBC in the recruitment of new commissioners. The UNDP urged the Kenyan government to prioritize the recruitment process to ensure that the new commissioners are appointed in a timely and transparent manner.
In the meantime, the IEBC has assured the public that its operations will not be affected by the vacancies. In a statement, the commission said that it will continue to carry out its mandate in line with the law. The IEBC also called on Kenyans to remain calm and avoid spreading rumors that could undermine the credibility of the commission.