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November 16, 2018

Raila's withdrawal from fresh vote recipe for deeper crisis, Chebukati warns

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati addresses a news conference at the Bomas of Kenya, in Nairobi, Kenya October 18, 2017. /REUTERS
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati addresses a news conference at the Bomas of Kenya, in Nairobi, Kenya October 18, 2017. /REUTERS

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati has warned that the withdrawal of NASA leader Raila Odinga from the October 26 vote might deepen the country's crisis.

This was part of the statement he skipped during a televised address on Wednesday following the resignation of Commissioner Rosyln Akombe.

It is not clear whether this was deliberate or not.

The Star has, however, established that following Raila's move, the commission is divided on whether the polls will succeed despite the technical and logistical preparations.

Chebukati said: "In the past few weeks, a leading candidate who garnered more than 6 million votes withdrew from the race. While it is his right, we must think beyond him and think of the 6 million Kenyans who will feel disenfranchised by this action. Do we just go on as if this withdrawal means nothing?"

Giving an example of Zimbabwe, the IEBC chair said after the withdrawal of Morgan Tsvangirai from the 2008 presidential runoff, their economy has never recovered from its then 5.8 per cent growth to the current 0.7 per cent.

"While president Robert Mugabe had a resounding victory after the withdrawal of the opposition leader from the race, issues of legitimacy continue to dog his legacy to date," Chebukati said.

He said even though Burundi's Pierre Nkurunzinza won the presidential election in 2015 after all the other 17 opposition political parties withdrew from the race, their economic growth nose divided from 4.5 per cent to its current 0.5 per cent.

"The lesson we can pick from these countries is that dismissing withdrawal of candidates with a large number of voters does not improve the economic, political or social situation in the country. In fact, it leads to a deeper crisis," he said.

He said though it was already painful to be on record as the chairman of IEBC that presided over a presidential election that was nullified by the Supreme Court, as a returning officer he will not bow down in history as the officer who plunged the country into a further crisis than he found it.

Chebukati added that he has on numerous occasions made several attempts to make critical changes but all his motions have been defeated by a majority of the commissioners.

"Under such conditions, it is difficult to guarantee a free fair and credible election," he said adding that without critical changes in key secretariat staff, the commission may not have a free, fair and credible election.

"I ask the staff who have been adversely mentioned to step aside and allow the project team to function without interference," he said.

The chairman said he will not continue to be pushed to accept legal opinions that serve partisan interests not grounded in the constitution.

"I will rather bow out with my name intact and my head lifted high than to be part of a process where personal interests dwarf the interests of the nation," he said.

Nasa leader Raila Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka announced their withdrawal from the race on grounds that the commission had not responded to their demands.

These were captured in a 12-point "irreducible minimums" that they wanted to be addressed before the repeat election.

Among the demands was that the electoral agency's CEO Ezra Chiloba and other top officials leave on grounds that they bungled the August 8 election.

Raila also wanted the tender of printing of ballot papers awarded to a Dubai based Al Ghurair firm be cancelled and awarded to another firm.

He also wanted IT firm Safran Morpho be blocked from providing services on grounds it colluded with IEBC to mess up results.

Read: Chebukati vows to defend constitution, asks implicated officials to resign

More on this: It's hard to guarantee free election, IEBC won't tolerate threats - Chebukati

Also read: Declare state of emergency to deal with NASA poll boycott, Uhuru told


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