IEBC chair, toughest job in Kenya?


IEBC chair, toughest job in Kenya?
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati

Million shilling monthly salary, 24-hour security, national exposure and handling a nation’s most sacred democratic duty, elections. How is that not a job everyone wants?

Well, the politics that comes with the position makes the the job of an IEBC chairman and sometimes commissioner, arguably the toughest gig in the country.

It is a thankless job no matter how you flip it. You will never hit a consensus with the politicians who all want you to ensure they win at the end of the day and that is just on the grassroots level. The chair gets super hot when it gets to the Presidential level.

Just listen to the current holder of this position Mr. Wafula Chebukati and he almost sounds like his two predecessors who were all bundled out of office.

“I have been called names but this just goes to show that when you have an assignment and you have focus in putting Kenya first, you still will not please everyone,” said Chebukati on Tuesday at Bomas of Kenya before he announced the winner of the repeat presidential election, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta.

For the one year he has been at the helm of the electoral commission, Mr. Chebukati has been subjected to pretty much his harshest test yet, that got him on the verge of throwing in the towel.

“I have watched as people seeking for a punching bag found a very good one in me. I find it interesting that while some say how weak a chairman I am, those in IEBC say, ‘this chairman is too principled and cannot be influenced,’” he said.

The 56-year-old advocate went further to reveal that the tribulations he has been facing were, unfortunately, trickling down to his family including children.

“I want to thank my family – my wife and kids. They really bear the brunt of all the harassment I go through,” Mr Chebukati expressed. “When they watch television and people say all manner of things about me, they are the ones who feel it the most.”

On October 18, 2017 – two weeks before the repeat presidential vote – the IEBC boss had given an indication that he was considering resigning, citing frustrations within the commission. Even worse, he made a telling admission that he would not guarantee a free, fair and credible election.

“I know there are elements who would love nothing more than to hear me announce my resignation at this point. In reality, that will be the easier thing to do, but we all have to put Kenya first and that is why I am determined to make this commission work,” he told journalists at an eagerly awaited press address.

“I have made several attempts to make crucial changes, but all my motions have been defeated by a majority of the commissioners. Under such conditions, it is difficult to guarantee free, fair and credible elections.”

Like his predecessors – Samuel Kivuitu and Issack Hassan – Chebukati has been subjected to public trial and condemned by not only the political stakeholders but also sections of the public.

Kivuitu was sent home in December 2008 after the then Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) was disbanded by Parliament amid hue and cry following the disputed 2007 elections that culminated in deadly protests that claimed over 1000 lives. He was accused of being partisan and interfering with election results.

Then came Issack Hassan who was forced out of office in August 2016 by the current opposition after a series of weekly protests in the run-up to the August 8, 2017, elections. Like Kivuitu, Hassan was accused of being compromised and bungling the 2013 election that saw Uhuru Kenyatta elected as president.

While the IEBC Chairman’s job may seem like one that only entails conducting a “free, fair and credible” election, the politics at play is perhaps the fulcrum around which the fate of the electoral commission’s boss revolves.

Even before the dust settles on the repeat election, another huddle awaits Chebukati. A petition has already been filed by activist Okiya Omtatah seeking nullification of the October 26 poll. But Chebukati, who many have bet on how long he holds on to his job, sounds optimistic.

“What I wish for and my vision, is for this to be the last election in Kenya where we have to face the same problems,” he said.

How long Wafula Wanyonyi Chebukati survives the fast-blowing political tides, only time will tell.

 

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Story By Benjamin Muriuki
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