NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 18 – The Chairperson of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Wafula Chebukati, now wants Secretariat staff blamed for bungling the August 8 presidential election to step aside.
Chebukati who made his first address after the resignation of Commissioner Roselyn Akombe said a seven-member project team he appointed to oversee next week’s fresh presidential election must be allowed to work without interference.
“I am convinced that without critical changes in key Secretariat staff we may not have a free, fair and credible election. I ask the staff who have been adversely mentioned to step aside and allow the project team to function without interference,” he told a press conference on Wednesday.
Chebukati noted with concern failed attempts to persuade a majority of the Commissioners to adopt critical changes before next week’s repeat presidential election, attempts he said were defeated by the majority.
“Under such conditions, it is difficult to guarantee free fair and credible elections,” Chebukati warned.
He said the project team, under the leadership of Deputy CEO Hussein Marjan, had undertaken critical preparations for next week’s election.
The IEBC Chairperson was particular that the Marjan-led team consisting of Alert Gogo (Election Technology Coordinator), Sydney Namulungu (National Tallying Centre), David Towett (Head of Operations), Tabitha Mutemi (Communication and Outreach), Salome Oyugi (Legal and Compliance) and Agatha Wahome (Finance, Procurement, and Administration) must take charge of the October 26 repeat election.
He urged other IEBC officials to put aside their political persuasions for the good of the nation noting the implications another contested election could have on the stability of the country.
“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,” Chebukati warned.
He also cautioned parties contesting the fresh election – in particular, President Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee Party) and National Super Alliance’s (NASA) Raila Odinga – of stern action should they continue to interfere with the work of the commission.
Chebukati vowed to viciously protect his legacy and the independence of the commission saying “I would rather bow out with my name intact and my head lifted high than to be part of a process where personal interests dwarf the interest of the nation”.
“My actions will become my legacy and the reference point not only for my life but of my family,” the head of the poll agency affirmed pledging not to sacrifice his legacy for short-term gains.
The concerns raised by Chebukati mirrored so closely reasons cited by Commissioner Akombe in her resignation statement sent from New York where she is self-exiled for among other things, the fear for her life.
“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,” Akombe stated in the statement dated October 17.
“It has become increasingly difficult to appear on television to defend positions I disagree with in the name of collective responsibility,” she argued.
Akombe also made reference to anti-IEBC protests which have made it difficult for the commission to hold training sessions for its staff in readiness for the fresh election, even as the threat to their lives became more imminent by the day.
NASA had among other things demanded the resignation of IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba and other officials of the poll body, the failure of which led to Odinga’s withdrawal from the fresh election.
The alliance has since revised its clarion call from “No Reforms No Elections” to “October No Elections.”