A top Kenyan election commissioner who resigned and fled to the US has warned that the electoral board is so partisan it will not be able to hold a credible poll, a week before a re-run of a presidential vote.
“This election as planned cannot meet the basic expectations of a credible election,” Roselyn Akombe said in a statement issued in New York. “I do not want to be party to such a mockery to electoral integrity.”
Kenyans are scheduled to vote in a re-run of the presidential election on October 26, but the country is in the midst of a political crisis that has deepened after Raila Odinga, the veteran opposition leader, withdrew from the contest saying the vote would not be free and fair.
The repeat election is being held after Mr Odinga appealed the results of an August 8 vote when President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared victor. The supreme court ruled in the opposition’s favour in a damning judgment that criticised the electoral commission and cited “irregularities” and “illegalities” in the poll.
Analysts said on Wednesday the likelihood of the re-run taking place as scheduled is diminishing because the crisis is more political than technical.
We have a secretariat that has decided to take this country to hell. Until we fix that … we cannot run an election, not in 1 month, not in 3 months
Ms Akombe said she resigned and left the east African nation because she feared for her life, citing threats to her and commission staff. A senior commission IT manager, Chris Msando, was found murdered, with signs of torture on his body, nine days before the August election. No significant progress has been made in the investigation to find the killers.
Ms Akombe accused some of her fellow commissioners of acting along partisan lines that had prevented necessary reform. While she did not name either candidate, analysts interpreted this as a reference to four commissioners who have appeared to back the stance of Mr Kenyatta, who has played down the need for wholesale reform of the electoral commission secretariat.
“We have a secretariat that has decided to take this country to hell,” Ms Akombe later told KTN, a Kenyan television station. “Until we fix that . . . we cannot run an election, not in one month, not in three months.”
Ms Akombe also criticised recent attacks on commission staff in opposition strongholds such as Kisumu and Siaya in western Kenya, which have disrupted preparations for the poll.
Wafula Chebukati, the commission chairman, appeared to agree with some of Ms Akombe’s claims. In a statement, he called on commission officials who had been identified as being involved in the irregularities to “step aside” and asked all politicians to “stop all attempts to interfere with the [electoral] process”.
He invited both the main candidates to attend talks with him to seek an end to the crisis.
The political tension has also been heightened by Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee party seeking to amend the election laws to make it harder for the supreme court to nullify a presidential vote.
Mr Kenyatta has declined to sign the legislation, however, suggesting that he might be open to a compromise deal. Mr Odinga on Tuesday said he was “ready at any time” to talk with Mr Kenyatta to ensure a “free, fair and credible election”.
Kenya has a history of troubled elections. The 2007 poll was so flawed it triggered violence that left some 1,200 dead. Mr Odinga, a former prime minister who has run for the presidency four times, also appealed against his defeat in 2013 but lost.
This year about 30 people have been killed in election-related protests since Mr Kenyatta was declared the winner.
Duncan Otieno, a political analyst, said Ms Akombe’s resignation “leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the election”.
“It shows we’re facing a bigger problem than just technicalities,” he said. “There’s now a good chance the election will not take place next week unless a last-minute deal can be done. “
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