By The Weekly Vision Team
Judge Linnet Ndolo of The Employment and Labour Relations Court has ordered the Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to reinstate Ruth Khatievi Kulundu, who until her suspension was the Deputy Commission Operations at IEBC. The judgment was made on November 30, 2023. Ruth Kulundu was interdicted soon after the general elections held on August 7, 2022.
Kulundu’s argument in the case was that the respondent’s action was malicious, unfair, and irregular and was unlawfully aimed at ensuring that she remained out of office indefinitely without any legal basis. In an affidavit, Kulundi claimed that she had successfully carried out her duties ahead of the last general elections. However, her woes escalated when the Ag. Director, Voter Registration and Electoral Operations, Moses Sunkuli, unreasonably and persistently breached the Commission’s protocol by reporting directly to the commission’s CEO and the then IEBC chairman, Wafula Chebukati.
During the 2nd week of August 2022, while she was conducting her duties at the National Tallying Centre, Mr. Chebukati reassigned her to the peripheral roles of protocol and dignitaries.
Nonetheless, the petitioner went about executing her duties, and while escalating concerns about the sanitary conditions for returning officers as observed at the Tallying Center, she requested Moses Sunkuli and the Manager of Corporate Events, Tabitha Mutemi, to find a solution to those concerns. Kulundu suggested that the lady returning officers be allowed to freshen up at any hospitality facility close to the Bomas of Kenya. Still, Mr Sunkuli suggested a closer and more convenient facility within Bomas, Kenya.
Unknown to Kulundu, Sunkuli had informed Chebukati that she intended to whisk away returning officers from the Tallying Center, an allegation she terms malicious and erroneous.
On August 25, 2022, Kulundu received an invitation to attend a special plenary meeting of the IEBC, which was called by four commissioners, including the Vice-Chairperson, Juliana Cherera. According to the petitioner, the invitation was also sent to all the commissioners and the Commission’s Chief Executive Officer, Marjan Hussein Marjan.
However, on August 26, 2022, the petitioner received a notice to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against her. The notice accused her of misconduct, with allegations that she had arranged for a Commission plenary meeting without authority. She was further accused of threatening and intimidating staff members. She was later issued an interdiction letter dated September 19, 2022. Kulundu further claimed that the Commission Secretary/CEO, in excess of his mandate and without any evidence, issued an interdiction letter to the petitioner, stating that power was vested in the Commission and to be exercised through its Disciplinary Committee.
In a quick rejoinder through an affidavit, Lorna Onyango, who describes herself as the Director of Human Resources and Administration at the IEBC, reported that Sunkuli had complained, accusing her of gross misconduct.
The judge noted that “Consequently, I return the following verdict:
A declaration is hereby issued that the action of the 1st Respondent to interdict the Petitioner was in excess of his powers and in violation of the law and the regulations of the 2nd Respondent;
The petitioner’s interdiction communicated by the first respondent’s letter dated September 19, 2022, is hereby quashed. The respondents are hereby restrained from initiating and/or continuing any disciplinary process against the petitioner on account of any of the issues forming the subject matter of this petition. The respondents are hereby restrained from interfering with the petitioner’s employment on account of any of the issues forming the subject matter of this petition.