Kenyan Electoral Official Held at Airport Before Trip to U.S.

  • Government says official required clearance before traveling
  • Official’s trip comes amid dispute over election results

Kenyan airport authorities stopped an electoral official from traveling to the U.S. before allowing her to continue on her journey, the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission said.

Officials at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in the capital, Nairobi, “delayed” Roselyn Akombe before apologizing and allowing her to travel, the commission said in a statement on its Twitter account. Akombe, who is visiting the U.S. for an official meeting, will return to Kenya on Sunday, it said.

Roselyn Akombe
Photographer: Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty Images

The Citizen, a Nairobi-based broadcaster, reported that Akombe was prevented from boarding her flight after she failed to produce a clearance certificate from the head of the public service. The U.S. Embassy intervened to have Akombe, a dual U.S. citizen, released from police custody and she’s been allowed to travel under the supervision of the head of the public service, Joseph Kinyua, it said.

Kenya held elections on Aug. 8 that have been disputed by the main opposition, which alleges that the IEBC’s results were manipulated to ensure President Uhuru Kenyatta won a second term. Opposition leader Raila Odinga is expected to announce today how his five-party alliance will challenge the outcome.

Dennis Itumbi, the head of digital communications in the Kenyan presidency, said Kenyan officials in “Job Group S” require government clearance before traveling, according to a statement on his Twitter account. Akombe is a commissioner at the IEBC.

IEBC spokesman Andrew Limo said Akombe didn’t require official clearance because she’s not a government employee.

“We are an independent commission,” Limo said. “She didn’t need it and she doesn’t need it. That requirement doesn’t apply to the commission.”

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi referred a request for comment to the Kenyan authorities.

— With assistance by Michael Cohen

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