Stage set for fresh IEBC team as Ruto assents to Bill

President William Ruto flanked by his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, Azimio leader Raila Odinga and other National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) members addresses journalists after signing the IEBC Amendment Bill 2024 at KICC, Nairobi on July 9, 2024. 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto yesterday signed the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2024 into law, setting the stage for the reconstitution of the polls agency that has been operating without commissioners.

The signing into law of the Bill, the first of the nine proposed pieces of legislation recommended by the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) report, paves the way for the appointment of the selection panel that will be tasked with recruiting new commissioners.

The timelines on the constitution of the selection panel will, however, only kick off after the new Bill has been gazetted and becomes law, which should happen within seven days.

This means that, if all factors are held constant, the country will have a new fully constituted IEBC team in place by October 28 or November 4, 2024.

President Ruto has faced mounting pressure to sign the Bill into law, particularly after Kenyans rejected the Finance Bill, 2024 and vowed to recall legislators who voted for it.

The various nominating bodies that will constitute the selection panel are now expected to forward names to the President, through the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), within 14 days.

Upon receipt of the names, President Ruto will appoint the panel within seven days. The panel will have 90 days to conclude the process of recruiting the chairperson and other members of the electoral agency. Unlike the previous panel, which had seven members, the new team will have nine.

In the new structure, the nine members will include two persons nominated by the PSC, representing the majority/minority parties or coalitions of parties and three persons nominated by the Political Parties Liaison Committee.

The Law Society of Kenya and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya will each have one slot while the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya will have two slots.

According to the Bill, members of the new-look IEBC will be required to have proven knowledge and at least 10 years’ experience to be eligible for appointment as commissioners.

The Bill also amended Section 6 of the Act, which will now require new members of the commission to have proven experience in accounting or information and communication technology as additional professional qualifications.

“The proposed additional experience in information and communication technology and accounting accords with the various functions of the commission that includes the use of technology and the prudent procurement of goods and services related to the conduct of elections,” reads the committee report that was adopted by the House.

In the new Bill, MPs also increased the period within which the IEBC is expected to review the conduct of general elections and table a report in the National Assembly from the current 12 months to 18 months.

The signing of the Bill into law has also officially ended the tenure of the Nelson Makanda-led team, which had already started spearheading the process of recruiting new commissioners.

“The panel existing immediately of this Act ceases to exist but a person who served as a member of that selection panel may be nominated to serve as a member of the selection panel appointed under this Act,” reads the Bill.

Unlike previously when the funding of the panel was not clear, this time the Bill stipulates that the Parliamentary Service Commission will finance the panel’s operations, ensuring sufficient resources for thorough and impartial selection processes.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga yesterday said that, if the country is able to get the issue of the IEBC selection panel right, then most of the issues bedevilling it will have been resolved.

“It’s not the first time we have an issue with the IEBC. If we find a solution with this IEBC, we will be on our way to resolving many other underlying issues in our country,” Mr Odinga said during the signing the of the Bill at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi.

“In the last election, the whole world was stunned when they saw an electoral commission that was completely divided, some saying one thing and the other saying another thing. You may be happy that the other group ruled in your favour but what example are we showing to the world? It’s a shame to our country,” Mr Odinga said.

“We “The Nadco report contains very many issues that are also being raised by the youth,” he said.

National Assembly Majority leader Kimani Ichung’wah, who co-chaired the Nadco team alongside Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka, said the move marks an important step in the country’s journey towards the reconstitution of the IEBC.

“Let me assure the country that all the other eight Bills that emanated from the Nadco report are being processed in both Houses and we shall give them top priority,” Mr Ichung’wah said. “These Bills have emanated from a process in which we all came together as a country to dialogue.”

Mr Musyoka pointed out that there is no way the issues raised by the young people can be wished away in the wave of the anti-government protests.

“If we are to be honest with ourselves, perhaps we need to go back to Bomas [the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi where the talks were held] because a lot of Kenyans wanted us to open this space that has now been opened by the Gen Z,” Mr Musyoka said.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.