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I’ve never felt such fear, Akombe tells BBC in New York

Thursday October 19 2017

Roselyn Akombe

IEBC commissioner Roselyn Akombe addresses participants during IEBC observer briefing on the status of preparedness for 2017 fresh presidential elections at Nairobi Safari Club on October 13, 2017. Dr Akombe resigned from IEBC on October 18, citing challenges at the commission and threats to her life. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Excerpts of Dr Akombe’s interview with the BBC:

Question: Where are you now?
I’m back in New York in the United States.

Where should you be?
I’m supposed to be in Dubai working with the commission finalising the preparations for the ballot papers for the elections that will be held on October 26.

Why are you in New York and not Dubai?
You know I have been agonising for months now about my role at the commission and my effectiveness at the commission and my safety, actually, and security, and I reached a decision after visiting four counties across the country and seeing my staff, and I realised that we are in a difficult situation as a country preparing for an election in which we have one candidate that has withdrawn and the commission not meeting all its obligations and yet not coming out to say that these are the challenges we are facing in terms of technology.

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We have been having a situation in the commission whereby every decision is made on the basis of a vote and it was becoming increasingly difficult to be able to really stand up and say I am doing this because I believe in it, it was more I am doing this because it is a collective responsibility and I have to defend those positions even if I did not believe in them.

Why don’t you stay in Kenya and fight out for your position?

It is not possible as the commission is constituted now to make any possible changes internally because you have to have enough votes, secondly, safety and security issues — you have seen and you are aware that nine days before the last elections, our manager in charge of ICT Chris Msando was brutally murdered. That has never been resolved.

Your brother recently had to leave the country...
Yes, my brother had to flee because he was getting a lot of threats. I was getting threats and those threats extended to him.

What sort of threats?
People were calling him on WhatsApp and telling him to tell his sister to stop asking too many questions...

Did you feel there were any threats to your life?
Absolutely, I mean I have never felt the kind of fear I felt in my own country, I have travelled around the world, I have lived in various countries, so if you get such messages and you have seen your own staff get that and be murdered, you would really be suicidal to think that nothing will happen to you.

Where were these threats coming from? From the governing Jubilee or Nasa?
I always see possibility of threats coming from anybody because sometimes it’s opportunistic.

You mentioned that the changes the opposition were asking for haven’t been implemented at IEBC. Can you expand that for us?
My sense really is that there was a time when we could have made meaningful concessions that would have allowed Nasa and Jubilee to play on a level playing ground in this elections but that time has lapsed, that time is over.

Is chairman Chebukati an able leader of the commission?
Chairman Chebukati is a very well-meaning person he has the temperament to be able to be a leader but he’s under siege ...

Is he able? Well-meaning yes, but is he able?
Really for me it is about the support base that he just doesn’t have at the commission.

That’s not Really an endorsement...
Well if he was much more firmer, I think probably we would have gone much far, but you know there are aspects of his character that are helpful in a situation like we have right now, but there are times that you just need firmness to be able to move on.