NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 23 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has defended its recent decision to approve the Punguza Mizigo referendum Bill dismissing reports that signatures appended in support of the initiative were not verified.
Commission Chairperson Wafula Chebukati said in a statement on Tuesday no law compels the poll body to authenticate signatures maintaining that the commission was only verifying that the signatures were from registered voters and that the one million threshold was attained.
“Contrary to the assertion of Election Observation Group (ELOG), the commission publicized the list of Punguza Mizigo Initiative supporters on its website on April 18 for a period of 21 days as part of public participation,” Chebukati said.
He pointed out that the commission had no repository of signatures of voters.
“As indicated above, there exists no law or regulation requiring the commission to authenticate signatures of supporters of a referendum Bill,” read part of the statement.
He was responding to a request from ELOG who urged the IEBC to publish the list of 1.2 million signatures collected in the Punguza Mizigo Initiative sponsored by Ekuru Aukot’s Thirdway Alliance party.
ELOG argued that in the absence of a repository of signatures, IEBC should publish the list of names of voters who supported the initiative in the Kenya Gazette or in any other public medium in compliance with open data principles; so that those whose details are captured in the forms can confirm that they consented to the referendum.
ELOG National Coordinator Mulle Musau said the publication of the list of voters who endorsed the referendum Bill will cement the confidence of Kenyans in the whole process.
“The signatures should be published in a manner that the individuals will be able to confirm after the verification process. That would be a way to further authenticate that process,” said Musau.
The group said the publication and authentication of the signatures would ensure accountability and transparency in the exercise.
Musau further indicated that this would eliminate concerns of forged signatures.
Thirdway Alliance party urged county assemblies to adopt its Punguza Mizigo referendum Bill forwarded to the 47 legislative bodies by IEBC on Thursday last week.
IEBC verified 1.2 million signatures of registered voters in support of the initiative.
Speaking during a press conference on last Friday, Aukot urged county assemblies to adopt the draft Bill saying proposals made will entrench devolution.
He further urged all Kenyans to read the Bill carefully and not to politicize it.
“I am urging all our leaders and Kenyans at large to take this initiative positively, support it and remove any kind of politics from it. I am certain that if no politics will be included in this bill, then all the forty-seven counties will back it up,” Aukot said.