, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 23 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has inadvertently extended the Okoa Kenya referendum drive a lifeline by admitting that there exists a lacuna in law on whether or not CORD can ‘top-up’ the 891,598 verified signatures in its pocket to achieve the one million minimum required to kick start by popular initiative, the referendum process.
IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba admitted to Capital FM News on Wednesday that the law is not clear on the matter despite Commissioner Thomas Letangule ruling it out completely.
Chiloba said the commission would have to seek expert legal advice on the matter should the Okoa Kenya Movement, driven by the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, opt to take that route.
“The law is unclear on what to do in the event the team says they are interested in topping up,” he said.
He did however add the caveat that they were likely to go the way of best practice, “which is once it fails, it fails.”
CORD co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka on Wednesday said they were considering all the options available to them including that of seeking to “top up” the number of signatures they had secured from those in support of a referendum.
The IEBC on Tuesday night announced that the Okoa Kenya Movement had fallen short of the one million signature mark necessary to initialise the process of amending the law on devolution, land and elections among others through a referendum of popular initiative.
An announcement CORD took issue with on several grounds and one that has exposed the glaring gaps in the law on how referendums by popular initiative should be handled; one of the rare points of congruence for the ruling Jubilee coalition and CORD.
“When IEBC says it’s verifying signatures, how does it do that when it lacks a signature repository?” Jubilee allied MP Johnson Sakaja posed on Tuesday.
CORD on Wednesday said it was disgruntled not only by the way in which IEBC communicated the signature deficit to them “through the press” but by the way it handled the process in totality.
Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo said the commission must have used the electronic register of voters and not the proverbial ‘green book’ to whittle down the number of verifiable signatures down from 1.6 million to just under 900,000.
He also took issue with the IEBC’s insistence that the signature verification process was delayed by their failure to provide a soft copy of the signatures.
“People physically sign on paper or do they expect voters in Mandera to have electronic signatures?”
Chiloba however explained that they wanted the names and identification numbers of the Okoa Kenya supporters entered onto spread sheets, “which we could run against our register,” to accompany the booklets that contained the signature sheets.
“We didn’t even get to the point of checking the genuineness or otherwise of the signatures. 741,979 of the records they submitted were either duplicated, not signed against, had no accompanying ID or passport number or the identification numbers were duplicated. At that point it was already clear the one million mark would not be reached.”
The Okoa Kenya Movement’s response so far has been, “we will use Parliamentary, Judicial and extra-Parliamentary means to get justice.”