IEBC commissioner, Roselyne Akombe, who just resigned and fled to the United States.
With the Kenyan elections just 8 days away, the situation is in chaos. On October 10, NASA’s Raila Odinga announced that he would no longer participate in the October 26 repeat election because the IEBC had not implemented any of the reforms that NASA demanded for a free and creditable election. NASA has held almost daily demonstrations in its stronghold protesting the election preparations and the Jubilee Party. Up to 67 people have been killed since the August 8 election, mostly by the police. In addition the Jubilee Party has amended the laws governing the election so that it will be much harder for the Supreme Court to overturn the October 26 election – in other words they changed the rules in the middle of the contest.
In implementing their withdrawal from the election, NASA is asking their supporters not to become election officials. In NASA strongholds, youth have disrupted training sessions for polling officials. It is possible that in these areas there will be few polling stations open and even the ones that are open will have few or no voters. But there will also be no party agents to certify the results so fraudulent results will not be challenged.
Many polling clerks and officials will be going to their polling stations in the dark since they need to arrive at 5 AM dark and will return home late in the evening when it will also be dark. Consequently they will be liable to be attacked by NASA youth supporters. Moreover in these NASA strongholds where their supporters have been told to boycott the polls, anyone who does go to vote will be targeted as a Jubilee voter and therefore liable to intimidation and retaliation. While the government will assign all its security forces during the election, they are not nearly enough of them to insure a peaceful election. Raila has announced that NASA will hold demonstrations on election day, October 26.
Then this morning, Kenya time, IEBC commissioner Roselyne Akombe resigned and fled to the United States. She has dual Kenyan and US citizenship and was on a leave of absence from the United Nations secretariat in New York in order to serve as an election commissioner. She is one of seven commissioners and the strongest supporter of IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati. In her statement she feared for her life. In her resignation letter she stated, “The commission in its current state can surely not guarantee a credible election on 26 October 2017.” In particular she singled out attacks on recruited staff in NASA stronghold saying, “It broke my heart in the last few days to listen to my staff in the field, majority of whom truly want to do the right thing, express to me their safety and security concerns.” She added, “The partisan commissioners were keen to have an election even if it is at the cost of the lives of our staff and voters.”
The Jubilee Party seems to control four or five of the seven election commissioners and have thwarted efforts by Chairman Chebukati to make reforms in procedures and personnel. Chebukati, who has been asked by the opposition to also resign, has indicated that he will not resign even though he said that he can’t guarantee the credibility of the repeat election.
The election chaos has kept our TCSC workers overly busy. For example, a week ago Getry reported, “The whole of this week, I was in Nangili on the boundary of the Kalenjins [Jubilee supporters] and Luhyas [NASA supporters] provoked by tribal politics. People burnt houses. With a few of our team, we have done three different community dialogues using transformative method. This week we are getting into listening sessions with the victims separate from the perpetrators. Today [October 9] I am rushing to Mt Elgon to plan for the peace caravan in preparation for the election on the 26th.”
I myself will be returning to Kenya on October 22, four days before the election. I’ll keep you posted.
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From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC) and Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. David is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region.
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