, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 18 – The reasons given by Roselyn Akombe for her resignation from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission appear to have jolted the Chairman Wafula Chebukati into asserting his authority and reading the riot act to the political players in the October 26 fresh presidential election.
Before warning that he would no longer tolerate political interference in the conduct of the election, Chebukati appeared to be building up to a resignation before drawing the line in the sand and issuing what he described as a “yellow card” to the political players.
“Never forget the fact that the people for whom it (country) burns all have the resources to relocate their families abroad in a minute,” the strongly worded statement in which he makes reference to the political class as “arrogant” and “narcissistic” reads.
Beyond standing up to the political class, Chebukati made a clean breast of the internal wrangles that have been the subject of speculation since the Supreme Court annulled the August 8 presidential election and he announced that there would be changes made to the commission.
Divisions in the Commission emerged immediately thereafter with a faction led by his Vice-Chairperson Nkatha Maina distancing themselves from a leaked internal memo through which Chebukati had demanded an explanation from the Commission CEO Ezra Chiloba on the failures witnessed in the August 8 election process.
It was around the same time that in an interview with Bloomberg, Commissioner Akombe revealed that members of the Chiloba-led Secretariat had refused to step aside despite being responsible for the now famed “illegalities and irregularities” that led to the nullification of the August 8 poll.
In order the save face, the Commissioners thereafter retreated to Naivasha to iron out the “misunderstandings” but the reasons given by Akombe for her resignation and Chebukati’s most recent statement reveal that the divisions persisted.
“I have made several attempts to make critical changes but all my motions have been defeated by the majority of the Commissioners. I am convinced that without critical changes in key Secretariat staff we may not have a free, fair and credible election,” Chebukati said.
As late as Saturday, Chebukati had been assuring the nation that all was well among the Commissioners and that they were working in one accord. But in the press statement Akombe released explaining her decision to flee both the country and Commission, she explained that the situation had gotten so acrimonious that it was no longer possible for her – viewed as the face of the commission – to continue to gloss over them.
“It has become increasingly difficult to continue attending plenary meetings where Commissioners come ready to vote along partisan lines and not to discuss the merit of issues before them,” she said.
Chebukati went further as to accuse his fellow Commissioners of only taking the legal advice that suited their patrons’ objectives.
“As a lawyer, I cannot continue to be pushed by majority Commissioners to accept legal opinions that serve partisan interests and are not grounded in the Constitution or the law. In the least, this is intellectual dishonesty for which my professional training demands that I abhor.”
The Commissioners were in particular reported to have fallen out over what action to take following Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s withdrawal from the October 26 election.
As it stands now, Chebukati has again demanded, though this time more forcefully, that the two main political players – President Kenyatta and Odinga – sit across the table from one another and dialogue.
Because while the Commission might be technically prepared for the October 26 fresh presidential poll, Chebukati said quoting Chief Justice David Maraga, elections are about more than operations.
“There are many examples on our continent and elsewhere showing us the negative political and economic impact of using the business as usual approach to manage elections… A leading candidate who garnered more than six million votes has withdrawn from the race. While it is his right, we must think beyond him and think of the six million Kenyans who will feel disenfranchised by this action.”