25 September 2017

Kenya: Chebukati Sacks Aide As Crisis Looms Over Presidential Poll

Electoral Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati has sacked his personal assistant over leakage of information from his office as the opposition gave top managers at the polls agency 24 hours to quit, failure to which they will physically kick them out.

Mr Chebukati, who has protested the frequent leakage of memos from his office, dismissed Mr Gekara Muoni on Sunday evening for allegedly being behind the leakages after his two memos to chief executive Ezra Chiloba regarding the bungled presidential election came to the public domain in a span of three weeks.

In one of the memos last week, the IEBC chairman demanded the suspension of the ICT director James Muhati, ICT coordinator Paul Mugo and ICT officer Boniface Wamae after efforts to send them home failed during a plenary of commissioners.

The sacking of Mr Muoni now brings to three the number of personal assistants sent home by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission's chair since February this year.


Mr Chebukati last week said he was investigating how the memos were leaked to the media. Efforts to get a comment from him proved futile throughout yesterday as he neither answered his phone nor responded to the text message we left on his number.

Unrest at the IEBC started after the nullification of presidential results by the Supreme Court on September 1, in a decision that heavily indicted the electoral agency for having committed irregularities and illegalities.

The first memo came to the public domain on September 7, in which the chair directed Mr Chiloba to explain why some election result forms lacked security features, explain the purchase of satellite phones that never worked and why hundreds of polling stations did not send results of the presidential election to the national tallying centre.


In the one leaked on Tuesday last week, Mr Chebukati said the move to suspend the ICT staff was aimed at restoring public confidence as the commission prepares itself to conduct the repeat poll.

The two memos have raised a ruckus at the commission with the Jubilee party leadership accusing the chairman of playing to the gallery by leaking information instead of focusing on preparations for the repeat presidential vote.

The crisis at the agency has spawned bitter infighting within the secretariat, culminating in a recent retreat in Naivasha, after which the top officials claimed to have thrashed out their differences and said they were now ready to prepare for the poll as one cohesive team.

As tension grew at the commission, National Super Alliance (Nasa) flagbearer Raila Odinga on Sunday gave Mr Chiloba and other senior officials until the end of Monday to vacate office, failure to which they will storm the commission's offices at Anniversary Towers to force them out.


Mr Odinga maintained that the alliance will not take part in the repeat presidential election if the same IEBC officials who messed up the August 8 election are still in office.

"We want elections and are really ready to face President Uhuru Kenyatta any time and any day but IEBC must be reformed and the officials we had earlier mentioned must go," he said during a meet-the-people tour of Kangemi and Westlands in Nairobi.

The opposition leader maintained that the conditions they had set out -- chief of which is the firing of 11 officials, including commissioner Abdi Guliye, Mr Chiloba and deputy CEO Betty Nyabuto -- must be met before the poll.

"We wrote to IEBC about our conditions and we are yet to get a reply and therefore our journey to get answers will start tomorrow if the officials do not resign," Mr Odinga said, adding that he was keen on using street protests to send Mr Chiloba home.


However, Interior Affairs ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka warned against the use of force to kick out IEBC officials, saying police will be deployed to maintain law and order. He told Nasa leaders to follow the law to achieve their objectives.

"Nasa is not a court of law. Neither are they an enforcement agent. The police will be there (IEBC offices) to maintain law and order. Anyone who engages in such acts will be met with equal force," Mr Njoka said on the telephone.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said the Supreme Court did not indict individual IEBC officials and urged Nasa leaders to respect the law.

"The Supreme Court did not indict any IEBC official. As far as I am concerned, Nasa lost the elections," he said on the telephone.

Mr Odinga ,who was with his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka and co-principal Moses Wetang'ula, told Jubilee to respect the Supreme Court and stop its constant criticism of Chief Justice David Maraga.


The opposition also criticised Supreme Court Judge Njoki Ndung'u, who said while giving her dissenting ruling last week that she checked and verified the 11,000 missing IEBC forms and personally analysed them before writing her judgment.

"We want to tell Njoki Ndung'u not to fool Kenyans. We are smart enough not to be fooled. She did not read all the documents as claimed," said Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati.

Mr Musyoka warned Jubilee that the people will not let it take away the independence of the Judiciary.

Speaking at PAG church in Kangemi, Mr Musyoka told Jubilee to show respect to the courts and give them an enabling environment to do their work as spelt out in the constitution.

"We are ready to go back to the streets to protect the independence of the judiciary. We are ready for teargas once again," said Mr Musyoka.


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