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Kenya Elections Chief Gives 'Yellow Card' to Politicians as Tensions Rise


Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairperson Wafula Chebukati, addressing media in Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 18, 2017, on status of preparedness for the rerun of elections on Oct.26.

The head of Kenya’s electoral commission had tough words for the country’s politicians the day after one of his commissioners resigned and fled the country. The resignation casts further doubt on whether the commission can organize a credible re-run of a presidential poll next week.

The chairman of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Wafula Chebukati, spoke hours after one of the commissioners resigned and fled to the U.S.

“Let me be very clear, I am giving a yellow card to all political leaders in this country. I will not tolerate threats on my staff anymore. I will not tolerate interference in the commission anymore,” Chebukati said.

Announcing her resignation, Commissioner Roselyn Akombe said she had received death threats which she found particularly concerning, given that the IEBC’s technology manager was found tortured and killed just a week before the polls in August.

In her statement, Akombe said that infighting and political pressure have rendered the IEBC incapable of holding a credible re-run of the presidential poll on October 26.

The IEBC chief also expressed doubts in his remarks Wednesday.

“Without critical changes in key secretariat staff, free, fair and credible election will surely compromised. I, therefore, call on the staff who have been adversely mentioned to step aside to allow the project team to function without interference,” Chebukati said.

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga addresses supporters during a rally in Mombasa, Kenya, Oct. 15, 2017. Odinga, who has taken himself out of the running, has called for a mass rally on Oct. 26 if a presidential re-run vote is held that day.
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga addresses supporters during a rally in Mombasa, Kenya, Oct. 15, 2017. Odinga, who has taken himself out of the running, has called for a mass rally on Oct. 26 if a presidential re-run vote is held that day.

Opposition candidate Raila Odinga has pulled out of the re-run saying the IEBC has failed to remove the individuals responsible for the botched August 8 vote. Opposition protests demanding electoral reform have turned violent, with three people killed this week.

Kenya’s Supreme Court voided the results of the August presidential poll saying the IEBC had not followed the constitution and electoral law. The ruling put Kenya on a tight deadline, with the constitution giving IEBC just 60 days to organize a fresh election.

Further adding to tensions, lawmakers from the ruling Jubilee party pushed through changes to the electoral law in parliament last week to prioritize manual transmission of results over the electronic system.

On Wednesday, IEBC chief Chebukati called for a meeting with all political leaders.

“I cannot move forward with a divided commission. Before the 8th of August election, the commission amicably worked, devoid of any division. I cannot move forward when presidential candidates refuse to put their personal interest aside and for once serve the country. I took this job to make Kenya better, not to draw it in a crisis,” Chebukati said.

In a series of tweets Wednesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta called “for an extended period of prayer and reconciliation this weekend.” Kenyatta has been campaigning nationwide. He has condemned the Supreme Court’s nullification of his win in the August 8 poll, calling the judges “crooks,” but has said he is ready for the re-run on October 26.

Addressing a rally in the capital Wednesday, Raila Odinga reiterated his decision to boycott the poll and called for a large demonstration on voting day, saying it would be the biggest yet.

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