Eight days before a crucial presidential election redo, a senior official of Kenya’s electoral commission has resigned and fled to the United States.
Roselyn Akombe said the current electoral system was not fit to meet the basic expectations of a free, fair, and credible election. She also said that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was “under siege” and has thus become a party to the crisis that engulfed the nation soon after president Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner in the disputed August election. Akombe told the BBC from New York that she had received anonymous threats and feared for her life.
“My decision to leave the IEBC will disappoint some of you, but it is not for lack of trying,” she said in a statement issued today (Oct. 18). “I have tried the best I could do given the circumstances. Sometimes, you walk away, especially when potentially lives are at stake.”
Akombe’s resignation deepens the political crisis in the country, and comes a week after opposition candidate Raila Odinga withdrew from the elections. Odinga had complained about the IEBC saying that it had stonewalled much-needed reforms to ensure that the elections were free and fair. Odinga said he quit the redo election after the ruling Jubilee party proposed controversial amendments to electoral laws—and later, used their majority in both houses to pass the bill.
On Sept. 1, the Supreme Court nullified the results of the Aug. 8 poll, citing “irregularities and illegalities” in the transmission of results and accepted the opposition’s claims that the electronic voting system was “infiltrated and compromised.” Supporters of the National Super Alliance, or NASA, opposition coalition have been protesting across the country, with police using tear gas to disperse them. The government at one point banned demonstrations in major cities.
The uncertainty over the upcoming election in the east African nation has led to slowing economic growth and prompted stocks to fall. Akombe also said in her statement that the vote was dividing the country, with commissioners attending key meetings only to “vote along partisan lines and not discuss the merit of issues before them.”
We need the commission to be courageous and speak out, that this election as planned cannot meet the basic expectations of a CREDIBLE election. Not when the staff are getting last minute instructions on changes in technology and electronic transmission of results. Not when in parts of country, the training of presiding officers is being rushed for fear of attacks from protestors. Not when Commissioners and staff are intimidated by political actors and protestors and fear for their lives. Not when senior Secretariat staff and Commissioners are serving partisan political interests. Not when the Commission is saddled with endless legal cases in the courts, and losing most of them. Not when legal advice is skewed to fit partisan political interests. The commission in its current state can surely not guarantee a credible election on 26 Oct. 2017. I do not want to be party to such a mockery to electoral integrity.