Why Wafula Chebukati’s name is generating disquiet in political circles

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Why Wafula Chebukati’s name is generating disquiet in political circles

Former chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Wafula Chebukati, has resurfaced in the media following his retirement subsequent to his pivotal involvement in the contentious 2022 presidential election.

After maintaining a low profile and dedicating his time to family matters, Chebukati’s name has once again become a topic of conversation at political gatherings and press briefings.

Reports suggest that the individual who was escorted away by security personnel and religious figures when clashes erupted between factions of the Azimio and Kenya Kwanza movements at the Bomas of Kenya auditorium before announcing election results on August 15, 2022, may soon assume a position as a judge in the Court of Appeal.

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The ex-IEBC chief is chiefly recognized for overseeing two highly contentious presidential elections, in 2017 and 2022, as well as the tumultuous rift with four commissioners who resigned following the most recent General Election.

During the live television broadcast of the events in August 2022, viewers witnessed armed police officers forcefully removing opposition agents from the venue before Chebukati returned to announce Ruto as the winner amidst the chaos.

Chebukati declared that Ruto secured 7,176,141 votes, accounting for 50.49 percent of valid votes cast, while Raila Odinga, the flagbearer of Azimio la Umoja, obtained 6,942,930 votes, representing 48.85 percent.

According to political analysts, President Ruto’s plan to nominate Chebukati to the Court of Appeal has been in the works for some time, with his name being mentioned on another list circulated last year.

Chebukati’s name resurfaced recently after a prolonged absence, following Raila’s sensational protest alleging Ruto’s plot to appoint him as Chief Justice of Kenya ahead of the 2027 presidential elections. Raila claimed he learned of Ruto’s intentions after the president’s recent meeting with Chief Justice Martha Koome and other Judiciary officials at State House.

The ODM party leader further alleged that Chebukati and his predecessor, Ahmed Issack Hassan, would initially be appointed as Court of Appeal judges, with Chebukati later transitioning into the CJ position before 2027.

The debate intensified when Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi responded to Raila, asserting that Chebukati has the right to submit his name for the Chief Justice post if he desires, given his qualifications.

However, opposition leaders argue that due to the controversies surrounding the IEBC during Chebukati’s tenure as chairman and the 2017 Supreme Court ruling reprimanding the commission, he should not hold any public office, let alone serve as a judge.

Political analyst Martin Andati suggests that there is an unspoken agreement that Chebukati will be appointed to the Court of Appeal, a move that is expected to happen in the near future, possibly within the coming months.

According to Andati, Chebukati’s name was initially included on the list of prospective new judges for recruitment. However, the process was halted to allow for additional consultation within the Judiciary. Now, there is a strong indication that Chebukati’s appointment will indeed proceed.

“The politics about his role in IEBC will not stop Ruto from appointing him because he meets all the qualifications that are required for one to serve in both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

“It appears he will be sitting at the Court of Appeal as they look for a way of easing Martha Koome out, because having served in such a senior position at IEBC, it will be difficult for him to return to legal practice unless it is on consultancy terms,” added Andati

The individual who has been out of the public eye since 2022 will receive a comfortable position at the Court of Appeal while awaiting other opportunities.

Justice Koome plans to announce openings for five more High Court judges and 11 Court of Appeal judges.

There has been friction between Raila and the Chief Justice over the purported acceptance of funding from the Judiciary, a function that should be handled by parliamentary committees according to the law.

“Why Koome sought money from State House and not from Parliament, only she can explain because the presidency cannot allocate any money to the Judiciary,” said Raila.

Discussions persisted between the opposition and government subsequent to Mudavadi’s call for the Azimio La Umoja leadership to refrain from blaming President Ruto’s administration for allegedly meddling with the Judiciary’s independence, noting accusations that Raila was the one undermining the Judicial Service Commission’s authority.

Mudavadi asserted that if Chebukati were to apply for a judicial position, the JSC, an independent body, would conduct the vetting, emphasizing its right to recruit qualified individuals for such roles.

Mudavadi has been a long-standing defender of Chebukati and extended support in 2021 when his party, Amani National Congress, was collaborating with ODM, Wiper, and Ford Kenya.

He stood out as the sole opposition leader at the time who embraced the IEBC’s decision to withdraw from a controversially formed multi-agency committee tasked with organizing the 2022 elections.

Chebukati, in announcing the IEBC’s withdrawal from the multi-agency committee, emphasized that according to the law, the responsibility for election preparation solely lies with the commission.

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Why Wafula Chebukati’s name is generating disquiet in political circles

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