Embattled elections boss Ezra Chiloba is to take a three-week break and will be away during Thursday’s repeat presidential election.
According to sources close to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Mr Chiloba took a “personal decision to be away in order to build confidence in stakeholders” who had complained about commission officials.
The official has been under tremendous pressure from the National Super Alliance to resign, with flagbearer Raila Odinga calling for street protests to force him, as well as other key officials, out of office, accusing them of mismanaging the August 8 election in which President Uhuru Kenyatta was announced the winner.
The election was subsequently annulled by the Supreme Court which concluded it had not been conducted in accordance with the law.
Mr Chiloba takes leave days after a tough-talking chairman Wafula Chebukati demanded that officials mentioned “adversely’’ after the annulled presidential election step aside. The chairman said the election would not be credible with the officials in office.
The Supreme Court said it had found no evidence of wrongdoing by any of the officials but politicians have complained and accused the commission of rigging the election, bungling and stealing votes.
Last evening, sources said the decision to take leave had been discussed with the chairman and that Mr Chiloba believes that even in his absence the commission would conduct a credible election because sufficient preparations had been done to address the gaps identified by the Supreme Court.
Mr Chiloba’s decision to take leave came as it emerged that cracks within IEBC began showing when the chairman tabled before the plenary a demand by the National Super Alliance that some of the staff and a commissioner be asked to resign.
Mr Chebukati and Dr Roselyn Akombe wanted the staff and the commissioner named to leave, but those opposed said procedure must be followed. This was before the Supreme Court made its detailed judgment on September 1, where it did not point a finger at any individuals over the illegalities and irregularities in the bungled August 8 elections.
“Whereas some people wanted blood to be spilt, some of us wanted to follow the right procedures and processes. We argued that we have a working Human Resource department, and that there are procedures to be followed,” said Prof Abdi Guliye.
Nasa had demanded the sacking of Prof Guliye, who headed the sub-committee on research, strategy and ICT, chief executive Ezra Chiloba and ICT director James Muhati. Others were: voter registration and electoral operations director Immaculate Kassait, head of legal department Praxedes Tororey and head of operations Betty Nyabuto. The demand was made at public rallies before the Supreme Court’s full judgment.
“There was also the argument that since the decision by the Supreme Court came down to the legitimacy of the forms and the apparent refusal to open the servers, Dr Akombe, the commissioner who oversaw the operations as head of the sub-committee on election operations should also be held responsible.
“I don’t head operational things. I only deal with policy. Where do I come in?” Prof Guliye asked, a day after Mr Chebukati warned that the commission was sharply divided and was not in a position to deliver a fair, free and credible election.
His remarks were in agreement with those of Dr Akombe who resigned from the commission on Wednesday, citing difficult working conditions in a deeply divided commission, a partisan secretariat and political interference.
He agreed with Dr Akombe that it was not possible to deliver a credible election under the prevailing political situation.
Dr Akombe said Mr Chebukati had unsuccessfully sought to have the commission seek the Supreme Court’s interpretation on what Nasa flagbearer Raila Odinga’s withdrawal from the election meant.
On Thursday, however, commissioner Paul Kurgat suggested that Mr Chebukati’s statement and that of Dr Akombe, had not painted a true picture.
The voting at the commission has always been based on issues, he said. “It is not true that there is a permanent clique of four commissioners who vote against the chairman. Sometimes he loses his motions, sometimes he wins. Sometimes it is three commissioners for him or sometimes two. So, there is really no permanent four against three scenario here,” said Dr Kurgat, the former Kenyan ambassador to Russia.
Prof Guliye also denied the suggestion by Dr Akombe that decisions that were made by voting were bad. He pointed out that under the IEBC Act, decisions of the commissioners in the plenary were either by consensus or by voting.
“That’s why you have an odd number. A boardroom in a serious organisation like IEBC is not a place to party. You don’t go there for leisure talks. Decisions have to be made. In such a place, you have to ask hard questions. You have to evaluate everything before you make your decision.”
He said the suggestion that there was a faction that went to meetings with a made-up mind was from those whose ideas had been rejected.
“If you come with a pre-conceived mind and the decision doesn’t go your way, it doesn’t mean we hate you,” he said, adding: “It does not mean that because I didn’t vote for your motion I belong to someone else.”
Prof Guliye was categorical that voting at the commission did not start after the annulment of the presidential election. The decision to hire Safran/OT Morpho was made on a 4-3 vote, the creation of a project team was not disputed, the decision to have a cloud server was not shot down despite opposition by the ICT team, while the decision by Mr Chebukati and Dr Akombe to visit Nasa strongholds was not made by the commission. The commissioner said that despite the apparent divisions, the commission is striving to have the October 26 election go on as scheduled.
“Now, we’ll deliver an election and then see what happens thereafter. If we don’t hold an election, we’ll not have obeyed that court order. All the sideshows play to the gallery of us not obeying court orders,” said Prof Guliye.
There was also the argument that since the decision by the Supreme Court came down to the legitimacy of the forms and the apparent refusal to open the servers, the commissioner who oversaw the operations as head of the sub-committee on election operations should also be held responsible.
“The demand was double-speak in itself. It was malice,” said Prof Guliye.
It was after that disagreement that the memo from the chairman to Mr Chiloba was leaked to the media and then a few weeks later, the one on sacking the ICT director and staff. Some commissioners were convinced that the leakages were not accidental.
“We knew it was not a leak. It was a deliberate release and meant to paint us in bad light,” said Prof Guliye.
Additional reporting by Patrick Lang’at