Former electoral agency commissioner Roselyn Akombe has said that political interference has rendered the agency so dysfunctional that any hope of the commission carrying out a credible repeat election on October 26 is impossible.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Sunday Nation from New Jersey on Friday, Dr Roselyn Akombe, who recently quit citing frustrations from fellow commissioners and senior secretariat staff, painted a picture of a statutory body that was not just at war with itself but also one that has become a poster child for political interference.
“The commissioners can’t agree on anything and if they did, chances are that the decisions made would be ignored by the Secretariat.
“In the end, you end up going round and round without making any meaningful decisions,” she said.
Dr Akombe claimed that Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission commissioners and senior staff at the secretariat were there to serve the interests of politicians.
“Decisions are made somewhere else and passed on for ratification and implementation.
“Commissioners and senior staff at the secretariat are put in line through bribery and threats. If you don’t agree with them then your life is in danger,” she said.
Dr Akombe, who disclosed that she personally faced numerous threats and intimidations for the positions she took during her time at the commission, said she fled the country partly because of her life was in danger and that she had hit a brick wall.
“The other commissioners shot down every suggestion I made to level the playing field as had been recommended by the Supreme Court, so my position in the commission became untenable because I knew we were not complying with the court orders,” she added.
Looking relaxed and rejuvenated, Dr Akombe, an employee of the United Nations headquartered in New York, who took a sabbatical leave to join the commission with the hope of giving back to the country her vast experience, said she found so many structural weaknesses in the composition of the Wafula Chebukati led commission and the secretariat, and a culture of patronage so entrenched that in the end, she couldn’t function.
“In many ways, my plan to come back to the US started as soon as I got the commission job because while I believed I got the job because I [was] qualified, there were those who wanted to make me feel that I was undeserving of the job.
“In essence, they wanted me to be beholden to them.”
Dr Akombe believes that a small click of secretariat staff led by Ezra Chiloba, the chief executive officer who is currently on leave, are the ones who were responsible for the bungled August 8 presidential election that was subsequently annulled by the Supreme Court.
“Chiloba and his team misled the commissioners about what was happening with the servers.
“When the chairman recommended their dismissal, he was out-voted so we couldn’t implement the changes necessary to carry out credible elections,” she revealed.
Dr Akombe said that the fact that Mr Chiloba has taken a leave of absence a week to the repeat poll would not make the forthcoming election free, fair and credible.
She said the move was too little too late.
“The first recommendation from the Chairman soon after the Supreme Court judgment was that some staff in the secretariat, among them Chiloba, had to step aside if the commission was to carry out credible elections, at least to meet the Supreme Court set standards.
“This recommendation fronted by the chairman and myself was shot down by some members of the commission whose allegiance was clearly somewhere else,” she said.
She said that if moves such as Mr Chiloba’s stepping aside had happened four weeks ago, then maybe many Kenyans would have been persuaded to believe that they were well meaning.
“But leaving now just six days to [the] election does not make any difference.”
Reiterating her call for dialogue between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nasa leader Raila Odinga to avert the impending catastrophe, Dr Akombe said it was morally wrong for them to put their interests ahead of the lives of Kenyans who are bound to suffer most should fighting break out.
“This crisis is as good as it can get and it’s the responsibility of leaders – political, religious and civic – to dialogue together to resolve it.
“It’s their moral responsibility to safeguard the lives of Kenyans.”
Saying that it was wishful thinking to imagine that the forthcoming election would be credible when almost half the country has promised to sit it out, Dr Akombe said the outcome of such a poll would only serve to balkanize the country more.
“Voting takes place at the poll stations and results are announced there.
“How could you claim you’ve had elections when probably half the country has boycotted the election or violence is so much that people fear for their lives and therefore stay away from polling stations?”