Uhuru meets Jubilee leaders to unlock IEBC impasse

President Uhuru Kenyatta held a meeting with Senior Jubilee MPs on Monday to try and find common ground on the mounting clamour to change electoral laws.The meeting was attended by about 50 members of the Jubilee alliance from the Senate and the National Assembly at State House,Nairobi.

They gathered at 9am and left at about 2.30pm .The Deputy President William Ruto chaired the first session and President Kenyatta joined them at midday.Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki and his National Assembly counterpart Aden Duale led the delegation.

An initial plan by Jubilee to mobilise its supporters to counter the Cord demonstrations appears to have been shelved. The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of the National Assembly was also reported to have started talks to break the deadlock over the electoral commission.

Multiple sources who attended the State House meeting indicated the ruling coalition was digging in for a protracted fight with the Opposition.They resolved that any engagement on changing the electoral landscape must be done through Parliament.

The process, it was agreed, will not involve the removal of commissioners from office.Further, there was an agreement that President Kenyatta will not agree to meet Cord if the ouster of the IEBC chiefs is part of the agenda.

During the State House meeting, Starehe MP Maina Kamanda was among those who took a hardline stance that there would be no budging while another camp coalescing around Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire was of the view that some aspects of reforms were needed to help tone down the political temperature.

The rest have adopted a hardline stance arguing that yielding to the demand to change the composition of the electoral commission would be emboldening the Opposition.

The meeting also resolved that if Cord agrees to the parliamentary route, a select committee would be set up to handle the matter.

Unlike parliamentary legal committees which are restricted in their mandate by Standing Orders, a Select Committee would have the authority of both Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro and his counterpart from the National Assembly Justin Muturi.

The move to have Parliament take the lead is seen as setting the stage for what will be an acrimonious exchange with the Opposition as Jubilee is sure to have its way in the bicameral House, given its numerical strength.

And to cement this, just two days after the meeting, Deputy President William Ruto, who was in Gatundu, said they are ready for dialogue, but only anchored in the Constitution and through parliament, echoing resolutions of the Monday meeting.

The meeting resolved that views will be collected from all stakeholders including political parties, the electoral commission, religious organisations, civil society, among others in what will be called the “National Conversation” and not national dialogue as Cord has proposed.

The MPs also agreed that Jubilee should not be seen as defending the embattled commission as doing so would reinforce the position held by the Opposition that it favours them.

With both Jubilee and Cord taking opposing stances, the country is in for a long drawn showdown on whether the electoral commission should be reconstituted or not.

That same Monday CORD was staging demonstrations to eject IEBC commissioners out of office.Cord leader Raila Odinga said that on Tuesday,he had written to the President asking for dialogue to agree on the fate of the IEBC before the August 8 elections next year.

CORD has reiterated its plans to continue with demonstrations on Monday to push out the chairman and commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission who they accuse of bias, corruption and incompetence.

The Opposition has accused the electoral body of helping Jubilee rig the presidential vote in the 2013.Cord claims the script will not be different next year claiming that top election officials have agreed to rig in favour of the ruling coalition.

Both Jubilee and the commission have dismissed the allegations as untrue.

The Opposition has indicated that it may boycott the elections should the Hassan-led team be the referee next year.

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Churches of Kenya say strengthening the electoral commission’s capacity to conduct free and fair polls would be key to ensuring a peaceful 2017 General Election.Foreign envoys, including United States, Germany and British have also called for a sober approach.