Commissioner Dr Roselyn Akombe’s resignation from the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission has sent shock waves through Kenya with only a week to go to the re-run of the presidential election but is her sudden flight to the United States the result of intimidation and a desire on her part to be part of a failed electoral process, or is there more to it than that?
Dr Akombe was working in Dubai for the IEBC handling the printing of the ballot papers for the election due on October 26. From there she fled to New York and then released a statement overnight citing her reasons for her resignation and setting out her concerns regarding the functioning of the IEBC and the prospects, or otherwise, for the conduct of a credible presidential election in Kenya next week.
INTIMIDATION BY ‘POLITICAL ACTORS’
In her statement and a subsequent interview with the BBC Roselyn Akombe said that IEBC staff faced continuing intimidation by ‘political actors’; that senior IEBC personnel were serving only their own partisan interests; and that the training of presiding officers was being rushed.
The IEBC, said Akombe, was under ‘political siege’, unable to either reach consensus, and paralysed – unable to take important decisions.
“The commission in its current state can surely not guarantee a credible election on Oct. 26”, Akombe said in her statement. “I do not want to be party to such a mockery to electoral integrity”.
Asked by a BBC interviewer about Kenya’s preparations for the election, Akombe said, “Would it be a credible election? Absolutely not”.
“There is a high likelihood that the mistakes that some of the presiding officers made during the last election will be repeated”, she stated.
On a personal level, Roselyn Akombe said she had received threats, as had her brother, a government official who had already fled to the USA.
“I have never felt that kind of fear in my own country”, she said.
Roselyn Akombe’s resignation will undoubtedly add fuel to opposition Raila Odinga’s fire and his assertions that the IEBC cannot run a credible election.
ROSELYN AKOMBE – TELLING THE FULL TRUTH?
The Kenya Forum thinks, however, that there is more, possibly much more to come out of this story. There are certainly some strange aspects to Ms Akombe’s sudden and late-in-the-day resignation.
Commissioner Akombe was working out of Dubai overseeing the printing of ballot papers for the election where surely her safety could have been all but guaranteed. She was hardly at the physical front line of the election crisis in Kenya. And Akombe’s claims to have been intimidated were not detailed, she referred only to messages via social media to both her and her brother.
One of the questions arising from her resignation and flight is, was it the result of principled concern, or was the dereliction of duty and the abandonment of her post?
AKOMBE TRIED THIS BEFORE?
In mid August Commissioner Akombe was reportedly stopped a Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) when she tried to travel to the United States but had failed to produce clearance from the Head of Public Service and Chief of Staff, Joseph Kinyua, before attempting to leave the country.
It was said at the time (although the Kenya Forum cannot validate the claim) that it took the intervention of the US Ambassador in Kenya for her to be allowed to proceed on her way.
In mid September, Rosleyn Akombe’s brother fled to the United States, not by way of JKIA but over the land border and via a circuitous route across four countries.
Prior to working for the IEBC, Rosleyn Akombe, who hails from Nyamira County, worked for 15 years with the United Nations, most recently as a Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary General (Political Affairs) at the UN Secretariat in New York.
Rosleyn Akombe is now safely back in New York. She told the BBC she is unlikely to return to Kenya. The full story of her road to the Big Apple however, is set to run for a while yet.