Commission boss can't guarantee Kenyans credible repeat vote

Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The chairman of Kenya's electoral agency, Mr Wafula Chebukati, Wednesday said he could not guarantee the credibility of the October 26 repeat presidential poll

Mr Chebukati cited the current conditions in the country and the divided Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission (IEBC), as the reasons for the uncertainty.

However, Mr Chebukati said he would preside over the poll and vowed not to resign as commissioner Roselyn Akombe did on Wednesday morning.

"I know there are elements who would love nothing more than to hear me announce my resignation at this point," the besieged chairman told journalists at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi.

“In reality, that will be the easier thing to do, but we all have to put Kenya first and that is why I am determined to make this commission work.”

In the nine-page speech, which he delivered accompanied by motivational speaker Dr Wale Akinyemi, Mr Chebukati kept Kenyans on the edge.

At one time, on the fifth page of the speech, it looked like it was a done deal: The 56-year-old University of Nairobi law graduate was on his way out.

Then, in the last two paragraphs of the speech that had all the tones of a man giving up, though with a tinge of “I can still do it” attitude, Mr Chebukati turned the tide: He was not going anywhere, after all.

But before then, he had conditions he wanted to be met: He wanted the presidential candidates to attend a meeting he will chair, stop intimidating his staff and let him do his job.

He also wanted staff the adversely mentioned as having engineered poll irregularities to step aside and let a seven-man project team he set up to do its job.

Mr Chebukati painted the face of a man under siege within the commission, and who could no longer make independent decisions, or guide the team as the chairman and the presidential elections national returning officer.

“While today I want to confirm to you our full technical preparedness for this election, I want to state categorically that I shall not go down in history as the national returning officer that plunged the country into further crisis than I found,” he said in the statement.

He was accompanied by October 26 fresh presidential election project team members Salome Oyugi (Legal) and Tabitha Mutemi (Communication).

“It is already painful to be on record as the chairman of the IEBC that presided over a presidential election that was nullified by the Supreme Court.”

This, he said, had made preparations for the poll difficult.

“I have made several attempts to make crucial changes, but all my motions have been defeated by a majority of the commissioners. Under such conditions, it is difficult to guarantee free, fair and credible elections, “he said.

“I am convinced that without critical changes in the key secretariat staff, we may not have a free, fair, and credible election. I ask the staff who have been adversely mentioned to step aside and allow the project team to function without interference.”

Mr Chebukati has been under siege, with opposition leader Raila Odinga saying all his decisions were being countermanded by a majority of the commissioners he said were under the ruling Jubilee Party’s influence.

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