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Kenya Electoral Body in Turmoil After 3 Commissioners Resign

By Mohammed Yusuf April 16, 2018

Tumult continues at Kenya's independent electoral commission (IEBC) nearly seven months after elections ended. Three commissioners quit their jobs Monday, saying the commission is dysfunctional and too vulnerable to meddling

The commissioners' complaint echoes concerns raised during last October's contentious polls.

Speaking to journalists Monday in Nairobi, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission official Margaret Mwachanya said the head of the electoral body has failed.

"Given this severe deterioration of confidence in the commission chair, we find our position as commissioners under his leadership no longer tenable," she said. "Consequently, we regret to announce our resignation from the commission with immediate effect."

Mwachanya was reading a resignation letter on behalf of two other colleagues – deputy chairperson Consolata Maina and commissioner Paul Kurgat.

The electoral agency's top officials were divided over how best to conduct the 2017 elections and administrative issues regarding the procurement of voting materials.

The latest development dividing the commissioners was the suspension of the head of the commission's administrative wing, Ezra Chiloba over financial mismanagement.

Mwachanya blames politicians for the commission's woes.

"We must banish external players from the commission boardroom and reclaim the commission's independence," she said.

Senator Kipchumba Murkomen of the ruling Jubilee Party is now calling for commission head Wafula Chebukati to step down and for the IEBC to be disbanded.

"It is basically a confirmation of problems that have been bedeviling IEBC and particularly the management of IEBC by the chair, Mr. Chebukati," said Murkomen. "We think that this is a culmination of leadership failure in the commission and its important that Chebukati takes action to resign from his office now, with the remaining two commissioners."

With the three commissioners resigning and another fleeing the country last year, the two remaining commissioners and Chebukati will be unable to make decisions. By law, the commission must have four active members to carry out business.

The head of the Electoral Law and Governance Institute in Africa, Felix Odhiambo, says the overhaul of the commission means it will be difficult to know what happened in 2017 presidential vote.

"The question would be why would you call for disbandment of the commission when the chair has called for an important audit of the aspect of 2017 election," he said. "The question would be who stands to benefit in a situation where that audit is not conducted? Where does this leave election management in this country?"

Kenya's Supreme Court nullified the presidential election last August, saying the electoral commission did not follow the constitution and the law.

The commission conducted another election in October, President Uhuru Kenyatta won that vote in a landslide, after challenger Raila Odinga pulled out of the race.

After the resignation of the IEBC officials, the commission's head Chebukati has called for a crisis meeting with the remaining officials.

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