Chairperson of Centre for Multiparty Democracy Kenya (CMD) Abshiro Soka(C) address the press at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi on the preparation for BBI report. With her were ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna and other leaders. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

A lobby group for political parties claims the elections agency is not properly constituted to conduct a referendum. Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD-Kenya), the political parties-based membership organisation, said if Kenyans will decide to make constitutional amendments through a referendum, there will be a crisis since the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was in a crisis following resignation of its three commissioners. IEBC vice chairperson Connie Maina, commissioners Margaret Mwachanya and Paul Kurgat resigned citing lack of faith in the commission’s chairperson Wafula Chebukati. IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba had earlier been dismissed. Yesterday, CMD-Kenya held its first stakeholders’ forum in Nairobi where it deliberated on how it will sensitise Kenyans and their role on the proposed constitutional changes espoused in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report released recently. Officials of the organisation said the BBI report had raised fundamental reform issues that prompted a constitutional change through a referendum. Hence, they called on Parliament to enact referendum law to guide the process in case Kenyans would choose constitutional amendment through popular initiative. “We remind Kenyans that although the popular initiative route should be more preferred, the composition of the IEBC remains in crisis almost two years after the resignation of commissioners,” said CMD-Kenya chairperson Abshiro Halakhe.

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She said the key changes were touching on the functions of Parliament, independence of the Judiciary and State commissions as well as the structure of devolved governments, which necessitate a referendum. Ms Halakhe rooted for restructuring of the electoral body ahead of the 2022 elections and the possible referendum to ensure seamless voting. “Immediate and comprehensive reforms will ensure that an accurate and verifiable principal register of voters is prepared in good time and promptly shared with political parties and other stakeholders,” argued Halakhe, who was flanked by her deputy Edwin Sifuna, also the ODM party secretary-general. Despite doubts cast by CMD-Kenya, Mr Chebukati has maintained the electoral body was intact and ready to oversee a referendum. Speaking to The Standard last week during the General Assembly of African Electoral Authorities, Chebukati said critics of IEBC were underestimating its potential. At the moment, the chairperson and commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu are the only ones remaining in office. Chebukati downplayed the vacuum at IEBC, saying the Constitution provided that three to nine commissioners were needed to execute its mandate. “Referendum is just one election. The major problem is funding, otherwise the secretariat is fully intact,” Chebukati said.

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