Kenya Vote Credibility Threatened by Ballot Sourcing Failure

Updated on
  • Kenya has yet to procure ballot papers for Aug. 8 elections
  • Electoral body fires head of procurement over delays

Raila Odinga addresses supporters in Nairobi on April 27, 2017.

Photographer: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images

Kenya’s electoral body fired its head of procurement after it failed to obtain ballot papers less than two months before the country’s presidential elections, heightening concern over the credibility of the vote.

The Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission dismissed Lawy Aura because of “incompetence that has made operations untenable as we fast approach the general election,” the Nairobi-based body said on its website on Tuesday. The development could result in the election date being pushed back in a “worst case scenario,” though a more likely outcome is that the tender will be awarded directly, said Ahmed Salim, an analyst with Dubai-based Teneo Strategy.

“Any mishap two months before an election doesn’t instill confidence,” he said by phone. “This raises concerns about whether the IEBC is prepared to carry out elections. We were already going to have a contested election, but this lays a much more firmer foundation for that.”

Kenyan elections are fractious times for investors because of violence that engulfed the nation in three of the past five votes. In a disputed December 2007 vote, ethnic violence left 1,100 people dead and forced 350,000 more to flee their homes. The polls may “heighten political instability,” according to the International Monetary Fund, which cut its growth 2017 forecast for Kenya to 5.3 percent from an earlier 6 percent projection.

In April, the National Democratic Institute, a Washington-based advocacy group, expressed concern that inadequate measures are being put in place to deal with a potential outbreak of violence in the August vote. It said delays in installing new members of the IEBC hindered the body’s ability to organize the elections.

‘Utmost Urgency’

President Uhuru Kenyatta is seeking a second, five-year term at the election, in which his main challenger will be opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The IEBC is “addressing the issue of the procurement of ballot material with utmost urgency,” it said in the statement.

Aura’s dismissal comes a week after the body placed its director of information and technology, James Muhati, on 30 days compulsory leave after he “failed to cooperate in the provision of information requested from the department,” according to a statement issued May 27 by the commission.

Aura and IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba may have bungled a second attempt to procure ballot papers for the elections to benefit a Dubai-based company whose bid for the contract had previously been rejected, the Nairobi-based Standard newspaper reported June 4, citing a review of the commission’s tendering process.

Chiloba and the electoral body’s spokesman, Andrew Limo, didn’t respond to calls and mobile-phone messages when Bloomberg sought comment. Bloomberg wasn’t immediately able to find contact details for Aura.

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