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IEBC says KNBS request for shapefiles untenable, claims sole mandate on boundaries review

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 23 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has maintained it is the solely mandated body to analyze the 2019 census data for purposes of generating a report on population distribution within political units.

In a statement to newsrooms Saturday evening, IEBC refuted claims it had refused to cooperate with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) on the same, insisting a request made for shapefiles by the government agency was untenable.

“On 8th November 2019 the Commission received a request from the KNBS for shapefiles (technical boundaries information) to enable them analyze census data and produce a  basis report on population distribution by political units; an exercise that the Commission is expected to do as part of its mandate in the boundaries delimitation exercise,” IEBC stated.

IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati said the Commission had expressed reservations on the statistics bureau’s request for technical data touching on delimitation of electoral units.

“The Commission is ready to provide KNBS with political boundaries maps as done before but not shapefiles,” he affirmed.

Chebukati noted boundaries review was a mandate expressly reserved for the poll agency.

“The Commission expressed reservations in providing this technical information on the basis that the boundaries review exercise is an express mandate of the Commission. Contrary to allegations that the Commission has frustrated KNBS’ efforts, their request on 27th November 2019 for data on registered voters per county was duly serviced,” he explained.

Chebukati took a swipe at the Zachary Mwangi-led agency for declining to produce a detailed data set on population within sub-locations, locations, divisions and sub-counties so as the commission could populate the same into political boundaries.

“The Commission would like to report that do-date this information has not been provided by KNBS,” the poll agency’s chief asserted.

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He said the information was crucial in the impending boundaries review process which the poll agency said could begin as early as March subject to availability of funds.

KNBS Director General Zachary Mwangi/FILE/CFM – Samuel Wanjohi

The poll agency is required in law to conclude the process by July 2021 – 12 months to the 2022 general election – for the changes in constituency and ward boundaries to apply.

In a statement released on February 14, Chebukati noted that the exiting boundaries, having been gazetted on March 7, 2012, were due for a review in March 2020 which marks the beginning of the eight-year interval provided for under Article 89 of the Constitution (2010).

“The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission shall review the names and boundaries of constituencies at intervals of not less than eight years, and not more than twelve years, but any review shall be completed at least twelve months before a general election of members of Parliament,” it reads.

IEBC said an elaborate plan had already been developed to ensure a seamless process once funds are availed.

“In preparation for the review, the Commission has developed a Boundaries Review Operations Plan (BROP) which provides a roadmap for the exercise. The Commission also initiated capacity building of its staff, procurement of requisite tools and conduct of a pilot boundaries review,” Chebukati said.

He however stressed that the process which will be guided by 2019 national census data from KNBS, could only kick off once funds are availed.

IEBC can review “the number, names, and boundaries of wards periodically” but cannot add the number of constituencies or alter the boundaries of counties.

Article 89 (1) provides for only 290 constituencies “for the purposes of the election of the members of the National Assembly.”

Among factors to consider during a boundary review exercise are the population quota, geographical features and urban centres, community interest, historical and cultural ties.

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The number of inhabitants in a constituency or ward is required to be as nearly, equal to, the population quota and “may be greater or lesser to the quota by a margin of not more than (a) forty per cent for cities and sparsely populated areas; and (b) thirty per cent for the other areas,” the law provides.

The Constitution requires the poll agency to consult all interested parties during a review process before renaming constituencies and wards and publishing the same in the Gazette.

An aggrieved citizen can move to the High Court to have the review of a boundary relooked at.

“An application for the review of a decision made under this Article shall be filed within thirty days of the publication of the decision in the Gazette and shall be heard and determined within three months of the date on which it is filed,” Article 89 (11) states.

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