Plans are underway to appoint a Supreme Court Judge as the replacement for Wafula Chebukati at the pinnacle of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
Justice Isaac Lenaola is likely to replace the current chairman if plans by a section calling for reforms at the institution succeed and sail through parliament.
Sources privy to the intimate details divulged that President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga have settled on Justice Lenaola due to his stellar performance at the Judiciary and principled leadership.
What also makes him an easy sell is that his image among the international community has earned him accolades.
Having a Judge as an electoral boss is not a first. The late Justice Zacchaeus Richard Chesoni , one of the most controversial names there have ever been in the Kenyan Judiciary- served at the Electoral Commission.
In a career spanning over 30 years, the soft-spoken Judge dodged one controversy after another, the climax of which was during his reign at the helm of the much-maligned Electoral Commission.
His initial appointment as EC boss on October 4, 1991, sparked angry reactions from mainstream opposition parties, with four of them contesting it in court. Justice Chesoni’s tenure at the EC came under heavy criticism from not only the Opposition who felt he was heavily biased for Kanu especially in gerrymandering of constituency boundaries, but also from British dailies.
Justice Lenaola however has a far better reputation. Coming from a marginalized and nearly ‘forgotten’ sleepy Samburu county, Isaac Lenaola beat all odds to attain outstanding academic credentials and become Kenya’s top jurist.
He was awarded the 2019 Jurist of the year award by International Commission of Jurist. Born in December 1967 , Lenaola was the presiding judge of the Constitution and Human Rights Division of the High Court and deputy principal judge of the East Africa Court of Justice before joining the Supreme Court.
His Samburu background is also coming to his advantage to accommodate disadvantaged communities in prime slots.
Concerns that he was among the Supreme Court judges who nullified UhuRuto’s 2017 are light weight given Raila and Uhuru buried the hatchet.
According to the constitution, the office of the chairperson or a member of the commission becomes vacant if the holder dies or resigns from office by notice in writing addressed to the president or is removed from office under any of the circumstances specified in Article 251 and Chapter Six of the constitution.
It is not clear whether Chebukati will voluntary resign or will be forced out but there have been calls for his removal due to poor performance.
Chebukati, who was born in 1961, holds Master of Business Administration from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Nairobi and Post Graduate Diploma from the Kenya School of Law.
Chebukati’s tenure has been scandalous with accusations of ineptitude rising which saw three commissioners resign and later try to make a comeback but their efforts were thwarted by Justice Chacha Mwita who held that Consolata Nkatha, Margaret Mwachanya and Paul Kurgat resigned legally.
Early this month, there were reports of a plot to frustrate Ruto’s 2022 poll dreams by having a proposal contained in the Building Bridges Initiative report that allows political parties to nominate commissioners to the IEBC sail through parliament.
The proposal had the backing of Uhuru and Raila camp that want a model akin to the one used in 1997 under the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group, where outfits were allowed to name people to the agency.
In its report, the 14-member BBI team led by Garissa senator Yusuf Haji, proposes that leaders of parties with at least one MP be given a role in the recruitment in the commission. The nominees are expected to be non-partisan, with a record of accomplishment and integrity, and who are not known political supporters or activists.
Chebukati on his part called the proposal ill-advised, saying political parties are loyalty-based institutions and are unlikely to have non-partisan individuals. He told the Haji team that political parties members’ actions may be motivated by political interest contrary to the constitution.