Kenya's Vote Body Says Staff Refuse to Resign Despite Ruling
(Bloomberg) -- Kenyan officials who mishandled last month’s presidential vote have refused to resign, even as a new team was appointed to conduct a rerun, an electoral commissioner said.
The Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission on Tuesday appointed six people to handle the Oct. 17 ballot after the Supreme Court ruled that last month’s presidential election wasn’t conducted in accordance with the constitution. It didn’t criticize any individuals in the ruling and a written judgment detailing its decision will only be released later this month.
“In a normal democracy, people would have introspected, they would have opted to step aside,” IEBC commissioner Roselyn Akombe said Wednesday by phone from the capital, Nairobi. “They have failed to do that. They have refused.”
The Sept. 1 ruling marked the first time an African court overturned the results of a presidential election. The rerun has increased uncertainty in East Africa’s biggest economy as it clouds the outlook for the country, where growth is already slowing. Opposition candidate Raila Odinga’s National Super Alliance has demanded the electoral commission be overhauled and said it wants guarantees on fairness before it agrees to participate in the rerun.
While Odinga has urged the removal of some of the electoral body’s officials, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his ruling Jubilee Party have vowed to resist such calls. The president on Tuesday reiterated that, while he respects the court, he didn’t agree with its ruling.
Jubilee and Nasa either rejected the six appointees or attempted to dictate who should be excluded in running the new vote, demands that are “unacceptable” to the commission, according to letters to the parties posted on its the agency’s Twitter account.
It is “unacceptable for you to provide a list of staff that you direct us not to consider for the project team,” according to a letter to the Jubilee Party.
Kenya is the world’s largest shipper of black tea and a regional hub for companies including Google Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. Any instability in the nation means neighboring landlocked countries including Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan don’t have easy access to a port.
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati drew the fresh team from among the commission’s secretariat to organize the October vote, comprising new heads of operations, logistics, training, legal, information technology and the national tallying center.
“In a situation where they have refused to step aside, the chairman has no choice but to select a team that he has confidence in, that he wants to work with,” Akombe said. “This is to make sure that those things are not repeated. It’s rare to get a second chance to make it right.”
In his ruling, Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga said “irregularities and illegalities” had been committed by the electoral body in the Aug. 8 vote. The court’s detailed written judgment is due within 21 days of the ruling.
“It’s a game of musical chairs the commission is playing,” said Dismas Mokua, an analyst at Nairobi-based risk advisory firm Trintari. “The team managing the election must be beyond reproach and acceptable to both parties. If not, we may end up with another election that will be nullified.”
Chebukati also said the commission will comply with court orders and conduct an audit of its computer servers in the presence of political party agents, according to the letters posted on the election body’s Twitter account.