NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 1 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati on Wednesday said a national conference on elections would be held before June.
Chebukati said the conference would be organised with the objective of facilitating, “open dialogue.”
“We need to arrange a national conference just before June for purposes of open dialogue… let’s call each other names,” he encouraged.
Chebukati made the commitment at a forum organised by the National Council of Churches of Kenya that was held in Limuru.
At the forum, Chebukati addressed a number issues concerning the August 8 General Election, among them the legal hurdles that have been placed in the Commission’s way and the effect they’ve had on the preparations.
“In Kenya when you have a tender which is more than Sh1 billion, there are those people who might fight over it and when they fight they don’t care about the Kenyan people. They only care about the money. ”
He said the Commission was nonetheless committed to delivering a credible election and in that effort would be shuffling the officers used in the mass voter registration drive to different locations to avoid, “familiarity.”
“As a Commission we shall publish the names of the returning officers on the due date, and the presiding officers and if anybody has any objection on any of them, they’re free to come and say ‘this person is like this, like this, let them not preside over this election in this area. The law demands that we publish those names and we shall do that.”
“At the same time we’re going to carry out a massive transfer of all of them, the ones who are involved in registration, to avoid familiarity with the candidates.”
He once again took on the subject of party primaries stating that while they were, as a Commission, not enthused about involvement in the exercise, they were under legal obligation.
“Among the constitutional mandates of IEBC, one of them is that we need to regulate parties in the way they conduct their nominations. The Election Act also says (in) I think 33, that if approached by any political party, IEBC shall conduct the primaries. Now, to me that’s bad law and should not be the case. It should not have been there in the first place but Parliament passed it.”
“And as I stand here today, we have been approached by one political party to conduct their primaries. We have engaged with them and tried to tell them that this is an issue which they’re better placed to do it themselves and I think the discussions are bearing fruit.”
On matters legal, he called for the popular election of female candidates in an effort to comply with the two-thirds gender requirement which stipulates that no more than two thirds of those elected or appointed to public bodies should be of the same gender.
“The bills which were sent to Parliament were not passed and it’s a problem hanging on our heads. As a Commission we shall carry out the election, Parliament will be convened after August 8 but if they’re no one-third women or men, anybody can petition the court to dissolve that Parliament at that time.
“But maybe we shall cross the bridge when we’re there. As for now, the women in Kenya – I think they are the majority I hear from the last census, I don’t know – they should try and vote in as many women as possible so that we don’t have that problem but as a Commission our hands are tied. We made our recommendations to Parliament, it’s a problem which will come but my main headache now is the August 8 election, that we shall deal with after the August 8 election.”
The Commission was however, he said, working in tandem with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to ensure the legal requirements on integrity are met by those contesting political office and that the law on electoral offences is enforced.
“EACC is supposed to work together with us to get the right people to stand for elections and be voter for.”
In the run up to it all, Chebukati called on the public not to judge the relatively new Commission based on comments made by those in the running.