November 23rd 2017

Top Stories / National

Akombe: IEBC totally partisan, can't deliver credible poll even by December

“The country faces a political crisis that should be addressed. When that is done, the IEBC has to be reconstituted and some people have to leave, especially the staff, before you can have an election. That can’t happen in one or two months.”

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comWednesday, 18 Oct 2017 09:01 EAT

IEBC commissioner Roselyn Akombe who fled into exile last night.

IEBC commissioner Roselyne Akombe went into exile last night and will not be coming back to Kenya unless the country goes through political change. Dr Akombe rerouted to New York from a trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where the commission had sent her to supervise the printing of ballot papers to be used in the October 26 repeat presidential election.

The commissioner released a detailed statement from New York, USA, where she will be living, explaining the reasons for her resignation. “We need the Commission to be courageous and speak out, that this election as planned cannot meet the basic expectations of a credible election,” she said.

Among other reasons, she enumerated technical challenges facing the commission, such the lack of a technology platform for results transmission. “The staff are getting last-minute instructions on the changes of technology and electronic transmission of results,” she said.

However, it is on the basic problem of the commission’s partisan bent, which the opposition has repeatedly warned about, that Dr Akombe was most critical. She said that senior staff of the commission “are serving partisan political interests.”

She also said that IEBC, which has lost numerous cases in court including one this week in which its chairman was seeking the right to alter election results at the national tallying centre, was receiving “legal advice skewed to fit partisan political interests.”

In subsequent interviews with local and foreign media, the commissioner said she fears for her life and will not return to Kenya any time soon. She said she had received credible death threats that she reported at the directorate of criminal investigations.

However, on the day she was to record a full statement with the CID, the police advised IEBC that she should not go to the CID headquarters where she reported the threats and the officers came to her office at Anniversary Towers. But the threats were never fully investigated, and her brother had to flee the country.

This morning Dr Akombe did a 40-minute interview with the KTN news channel in which she outlined the problems at the commission. She said the secretariat headed by CEO Ezra Chiloba was completely partisan.

“After the Supreme Court ruling which found some illegalities were committed by the commission, we met the staff and they flatly refused to resign. But we continued reaching out to them on a friendly basis and proposed that, instead of resigning, they should take leave from the commission, some had not taken their annual leave, but even that they refused.

“Now, the question you would ask yourself is, what is this so fundamental that the staff are doing that they refuse to take even annual leave that is stipulated in their contracts?”

Asked about the credibility of the repeat election, the commissioner said explicitly that the election being organized will be a sham and will most likely be nullified again by the Supreme Court.

She said the commission is completely compromised to deliver an election that meets the requirements of the law or the Supreme Court ruling. Moreover, Dr Akombe said, the problems around the upcoming election are not only legal or technical but are of a political nature.

“The country faces a political crisis that should be addressed. When that is done, the IEBC has to be reconstituted and some people have to leave, especially the staff, before you can have an election. That can’t happen in one or two months.”

Akombe laid the blame of failure in the commission at the door of four commissioners whom she accused of serving the Jubilee agenda. She said the four commissioners have made it impossible for any decision to improve the election environment.

“You can’t do much when every decision of the commission has to be taken through a vote and the chairman always has only two votes. When he says partisan secretariat staff have to leave, you have the same set of four commissioners saying the staff are going nowhere.

“When the chairman says, look, we need a different printer and not Al Ghurair, you have the commissioners saying we must stick with the printer. And when he says the commission is not ready for election, that we need to address the technology challenges, the same four commissioners are saying we are ready for the election”.

She says it reached a point where she found it untenable to keep defending decisions arrived at by collective responsibility when four commissioners and some secretariat staff had made up their minds. “They are prepared to take the country to hell.”

KTN reproduced video clips of Akombe defending some of the decisions she says were made out of collective responsibility. In one clip, she is defending the use of Safaricom in transmitting the results, against the opposition’s accusations that Safaricom compromised the delivery of the results last time.

“Safaricom is the largest mobile services provider and you cannot exclude it from the process,” she said then. In another clip, she is defending Al Ghurair, using as a basis the two political camps’ opposition for the use of UNDP to procure the ballot papers for IEBC. “The two main players have said Kenya is not a banana republic for UNDP to be involved.”

In terms of solution to the problems around the election, Akombe said, “We are in a political crisis which needs to be handled out of the commission. And the commission has to be reconstituted afresh after that.”

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