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Storm over ‘smear campaign’ at IIEC

NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 3 – The personal assistant to the Chief Electoral Officer at the Interim Independent Electoral Commission has been suspended over an alleged smear campaign in the media to lock out commissioners from jobs at the new electoral body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

IIEC chairman Issack Hassan said the official was sent away after articles critical of the performance of the commissioners that have appeared recently in the media were found on his laptop.

Mr Hassan said he was forced to abandon a tour of the Philippines, after a section of the media confronted him with allegations of corruption and nepotism. He said the commission commenced investigations which also included engaging the services of Information Technology (IT) experts and independent forensic experts.

“Some of the articles are word for word of what has been printed in a local newspaper’s opinion pages under a different by-line. The other articles were due to be released in subsequent publications,” Mr Hassan told a news conference at the commission’s Anniversary Towers offices.

He said they had established that the articles found on the PA’s computer were sent to the newspapers and some were published.

The IIEC chairman questioned the timing of the articles which seemed to question his credibility and suitability and that of other commissioners said to be eyeing positions in the IEBC.

The articles further accuse three IIEC commissioners of using their political connections to attempt to influence the results of the South Mugirango, Kirinyaga Central and Juja by-elections in favour of some candidates.

Mr Hassan absolved the Chief Electoral Officer James Oswago who is overseas on duty, from blame over the matter.

He said that Mr Oswago had however been recalled to return to Kenya to assist in an ongoing investigation by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

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“We have asked the PA to respond to what we have discovered.  He has denied he was doing it for the CEO,” he said.

“The CEO has been out of the country… he is in The Philippines and before that he was in Nigeria. I have asked him to comeback so that we can deal with this,” he added.

Mr Hassan said he was confident of the commission’s performance given its track record since it was established in May 2009.

“I feel we have done a good job with the staff in IIEC and I would want to build on that,” the Chairman said.

Once set up, the IEBC’s first task will be to complete setting up the constituency boundaries and add 80 new constituencies as require by the Constitution.

The IIEC has a good track record since it was established. It has successfully conducted ten by-elections including the latest one in Bonny Khalwale’s Ikolomani constituency.

No one has contested any of the by-election results.

The IEBC will be responsible for conducting elections in the country.

The new commission is expected to be in place before the end of this month.

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