IEBC chairperson should have the final word, says Koki Muli

Former Kenya’s United Nations (UN) Deputy Ambassador Koki Muli Grignon has pitched for reforms at the electoral agency to avert overlapping between the commission and secretariat.

Ms Koki, who was being interviewed for commissioner’s job at the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), stressed on the importance of clear separation of powers between the chairperson and Chief Executive officer (CEO).

She said there was no reason for the IEBC not to centrally engage with the public other than by the chairperson’s office.

Hinting at the protracted battle between chair Wafula Chebukati and former CEO Ezra Chiloba amid talk of factions in the commission, Koki called for radical reforms to eliminate centres of power.

“The policy of the institution must be delivered to the public by the chairperson. Nobody else. The role and the function of the secretariat, headed by the CEO, is clearly defined in the IEBC and Elections Act. They should stay on their lane and implement their function in the best way under the guidance, supervision and motivation of the commissioners,” said Koki.

Her sentiments were echoed by Prof Maurice Amutabi, the 23rd candidate to be interviewed by the selection panel seeking to replace four IEBC commissioners who resigned after the 2017 general election.

Prof Amutabi called for structures to curtail personality-driven agenda. He said tensions are to blame for the body’s inability to deliver and called for institutional accountability.

“We know many organisations sometimes have personalities who emerge to point of creating factions. There must be structures not punctuated by personal interests within which commissioners and secretariat can work harmoniously without creating divisions,” said Prof Amutabi, who also backed early voting, electronic and vote-by-mail ballot.

Ms Koki said her previous work with IEBC and the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) exposed her to how broken systems determine outcomes.

The advocate of the High Court said if appointed a commissioner, she will persuade stakeholders to back policies that instill confidence in the agency, electoral system and vote procedures. “If voters are not well informed, they will not cast their ballot in the manner that validates them at the count,” she added.

On women, she pointed out that that affirmative actions and quotas are not enough. Koki said processes that are facilitative; which create an environment for women to participate in elective and appointive processes should be bolstered.

“It is important to empower different categories of the society and those people who are patrons of political parties to understand the importance of all categories of our society participating in decision and policy-making so that they can make a difference in representation. A decision that does not include 50 per cent of the population,” said Koki.

Asked about bribery in voting systems, she recalled an instance where an influential country sent her a carpet in New York, US, in a bid to sway her bid during an election.

“A particular powerful country needed the support of the African Group and I was chairing the Ambassadors and Deputy Permanent Representatives –  I had a lot of influence in New York. This country wanted support on the floor of the General Assembly to vote. One day I received this call from my apartment that a big beautiful carpet had been delivered,” she narrated.

“When I got home, I looked at the carpet and called the Permanent Representative of that country. I told him that if he was giving me a gift he’ll have to deliver it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; it has to be received by my Minister on behalf of the people of Kenya. I requested that the same person who delivered it, because it was a big item, take it back to his Mission, and it ended like that.”

Amb Lucy Jebet Chelimo during the oral interviews by the Selection panel for the appointment of commissioners of IEBC at the KICC on July 16, 2021. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

On diaspora engagements, Lucy Jebet Chelimo, formerly Kenya’s High Commissioner to Harare, was taken to task over her stint in Zimbabwe where she revealed that under 400 Kenyan nationals were duly registered with the Mission in 2017.

Chelimo defended Kenya’s spending in the 16-staffed Harare mission saying she engaged in economic diplomacy – pushing for investments between Zimbabwe and Kenya – and ensured relationship between the two nations remained cordial.

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