Former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Commissioner Dr. Roselyn Akombe has revealed details of a divided electoral agency, which, she says, when relied upon, will not conduct an election that will pass the credibility test.
Akombe resigned on Wednesday morning, citing a near-impossible task for the commission to hold credible polls in the October 26 presidential vote.
Speaking exclusively on BBC, Wednesday, Akombe, who fled to New York, said her conscience won’t let her live in peace if she, among other six IEBC commissioners, oversees another “flawed” process.
CHEBUKATI IS BESIEGED
Akombe said the IEBC Chairman, Wafula Chebukati, is committed to supervising a credible poll, but given division among the commissioners, he is unable to take bold steps that will see a repeat poll pass the credibility test.
“Chairman Chebukati is a very well-meaning person. He has the temperament to be able to be a leader but he is a leader who is under siege in the Commission. Chebukati has no support base from nearly half of the Commission. If he was firmer, probably, we could have gone much far. But there are aspects of his character that are helpful in a situation like this. But, there are times that you just need firmness to be able to move on,” said Akombe.
COMMISSION ‘NOT FULLY READY’ TO CONDUCT OCT. 26 POLL
The ex-IEBC mandarin further revealed that, based on her evaluation, the electoral board is not “fully ready” to conduct a fair election on October 26, given challenges witnessed in the August 8 presidential election, which led to its nullification by the Supreme Court, have not yet been fully addressed.
“If it is to conduct an election, yes the Commission is in a position to hold fresh elections. Would it be a credible election? Absolutely not! There is a very high likelihood that mistakes that some of the presiding officers made during the last general election will be repeated. If you are dealing with an election where at least half of the country won’t take part in, would you consider that as an environment to have a credible election? No,” said Akombe.
“I have been agonizing for months now about my role at the Commission and my effectiveness at the electoral body, and my safety and security. I reached a decision after visiting four counties across the country and seeing my staff, I realised we are in a difficult situation as a country preparing for an election, in which you have one candidate who has withdrawn, and at that time, the Commission has not met all its obligations and yet not coming out very strongly to say these are the challenges we are facing, in terms of technology.”
IEBC COMMISIONERS DIVIDED
Akombe also painted a picture of an electoral agency that has no seamless communication, but relies on “majority takes all” approach to important functions such as decision-making.
“It is not possible to make changes in the Commission as it is currently constituted. One has to have enough votes. The second aspect of it is the safety and security issue. You are aware that nine days to the August 8general election, our manager in charge of ICT was brutally murdered. That has never been resolved. We have been having a situation in the Commission whereby every decision is on the basis of a vote. It was becoming increasingly difficult to be able to stand up and say: ‘I am doing this because I believe in it’. It was more of: ‘I am doing this because we have a collective responsibility.’ I had to defend those positions, even when I did not believe in them.”
IEBC COMMISSIONERS PRONE TO THREATS
Akombe said one of the reasons she resigned from her position was due to constant threats issued to her life, and that her of her family members.
“I absolutely have fears for my life. I have never felt the kind of fear that I felt in my own country. I have traveled around the world, I have lived in various countries, so if you get such messages, and you have seen your own staff get threatened and be murdered, you will really be suicidal to think that nothing will happen to you. I don’t envisage myself going back to Kenya in the foreseeable future. I don’t feel safe enough to be able to go back home. I haven’t been feeling safe being there. This is not what I ever thought it was going to end up being as a job,” she said.
“My brother had to flee the country because he was getting a lot of threats. I was getting threats. And those threats extended to him. People were using threatening words on him on WhatsApp, some called him asking him to tell his sister (Akombe) to stop asking many questions, to relax about senior staff being sent home, or he will be Msando-ed.”
LEADING COALITIONS PUSHING FOR OWN INTERESTS
Akombe further divulged that interests pushed for by the leading political formations in Kenya, Jubilee and NASA, have made it difficult for the electoral board to focus fully on delivering a credible poll.
“I always see possibilities of threats coming from anybody because sometimes, it is opportunistic. There was a period of time in which we could be able to make meaningful concessions that would have allowed NASA and Jubilee to play on a level playing ground in this election, but that time has lapsed. That time is over. NASA has been putting some of our staff across the country under pressure. It is unacceptable.”
The ex-IEBC commissioner concluded the interview, saying she cannot compromise her integrity, whatsoever.
“My personality requires that I speak the truth and there are certain aspects that I cannot live with. I cannot live with an election that is never going to be a credible election. We have to get to a point where we can be able to speak the truth, whether that truth will hurt Jubilee or whether it hurts NASA.”