Kenya Electoral Official Quits, Saying Vote Won’t Be Credible

Updated on
  • Commissioner says staff under siege, making partisan decisions
  • Rerun of annulled presidential election scheduled for Oct. 26

Kenyan Opposition Leader Won't Run in New Election

A top Kenyan electoral official resigned and fled the East African nation a week before a scheduled rerun of an annulled presidential vote, saying it won’t be credible.

Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission staff face intimidation by political actors and protesters, senior personnel are serving partisan interests and the training of presiding officers is being rushed, Commissioner Roselyn Akombe said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. Akombe said by phone she’s currently in New York.

Roselyn Akombe

Photographer: Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty Images

“The commission in its current state can surely not guarantee a credible election on Oct. 26,” Akombe said in the statement. “I do not want to be party to such a mockery to electoral integrity.”

Kenya is repeating its Aug. 8 presidential election after the Supreme Court last month overturned President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory saying the vote wasn’t conducted in line with the constitution and the IEBC’s systems were “infiltrated and compromised.” Opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew from the rerun on Oct. 10, citing the commission’s failure to agree to reforms, including changes to its staff and systems to ensure a credible vote.

Opposition Validated

Akombe’s resignation may be seen as a validation of Odinga’s claims that the commission can’t run a free and fair election, Dismas Mokua, an analyst at Nairobi-based risk advisory firm Trintari, said by phone from the capital. Her departure is also likely to lead Kenyatta to sign into law amendments to electoral law that his ruling Jubilee Party rushed through parliament to ensure that staff changes at the IEBC don’t derail the rerun, he said.

“It may give the president a push to sign the amendments into law,” he said. “The amendments were crafted out of fear of turbulence at the IEBC.”

Kenya’s Senate last week approved legislation that enables the commission to make decisions based on a quorum of at least three of its seven commissioners, and for the authority to appoint a chairman in the event that the position is vacated.

IEBC spokesman Andrew Limo didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone seeking comment.

Election controversies have become routine in Kenya, a regional hub for companies including General Electric Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., since it became a multiparty democracy in 1991. The most catastrophic followed a disputed vote in December 2007 that deteriorated into clashes across the country and claimed at least 1,100 lives.

Akombe said the commission can’t on its own solve the political crisis currently facing the country.

“The lessons from 2007-08 are too fresh, lest we forget,” she said.

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