Presidential aspirants also question integrity of Liberian polls
By John Eche
Fresh doubts have been raised on the credibility of the forthcoming rerun polls in Kenya.
This is coming even as news reports indicate that a senior member of Kenya’s electoral commission (IEBC) has fled to the US amid death threats ahead of next week’s presidential election re-run.
Roselyn Akombe said the IEBC was under political “siege”, and unable to reach consensus or take any decisions.
The IEBC said it regretted her decision to quit, while its chairman conceded that he also could not guarantee that the poll would be credible.
Last week, opposition leader Raila Odinga pulled out of the vote.
The Supreme Court annulled the result of the original 8 August poll, when current President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared winner, after finding irregularities and illegalities.
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said he regretted Ms Akombe’s decision to quit and warned Kenya’s political leaders not to “interfere with the process”.
President Kenyatta has called on the nation to pray for peace
Speaking to the BBC, Ms Akombe recalled the murder of the election commission’s IT head, Chris Msando, before the August poll.
“You’ll be suicidal to think that nothing will happen to you,” she said.
“I have never felt the kind of fear that I felt in my own country,” Ms Akombe told the BBC.
Before the chat, Ms Akombe had in a statement said she had agonised over the decision to leave the IEBC because “the commission in its current state can surely not guarantee a credible election”.
“There is a very high likelihood that the mistakes that some of the presiding officers made during the last election will be repeated,” she told the BBC.
She said IEBC members had been voting along partisan lines, without discussing different issues on merit.
Commissioners and other IEBC personnel were facing intimidation by political actors and protesters, Ms Akombe said.
She added that the death threats were anonymous threats, and she had been put under pressure to resign.
She said she did not “feel safe enough to be able to go home” in the foreseeable future.
The development is a big blow for the beleaguered commission, whose credibility had already taken a big hit after the Supreme Court annulled the 8 August election.
Ms Akombe’s revelation that the commission is beset by internal wrangles and is pliable to partisan interests dispels any illusion that it is an independent body.
She also questioned the commission’s leadership, saying Mr Chebukati was ineffectual.
Mr Chebukati has himself given credence to this view.
“I’ve made several attempts to make critical changes but all my motions have been defeated by a majority of the commissioners,” AFP news agency has quoted him as saying. “Under such conditions, it’s difficult to guarantee a free, fair and credible election.”
It is hard to imagine that the commission will recover from its problems to organise a credible election.
When it settled on 26 October as the date for the repeat election, President Kenyatta’s supporters were quick to point out that it was also his birthday.
It seems right now that the only thing that is certain is that Mr Kenyatta will turn 56.
What does the president say?
He has not yet commented on Ms Akombe’s resignation or Mr Chebukati’s criticisms.
Instead, he has called on the nation to spend the weekend in an “extended period of prayer and reconciliation”.
“We walk towards the declared date of the 26th of October both as a God-fearing leadership and government,” Mr Kenyatta said in a televised speech.
He has been criss-crossing the country as part of his election campaign, insisting that the poll will go ahead.
The IEBC has said that Mr Odinga’s name will remain on the ballot paper, arguing that he has not filled in a legally required form to inform it of his decision to pull out.
Mr Odinga insists that he does not need to fill in the form, and has organised mass protests to demand electoral reforms before a re-run is held.
The IEBC also says that the names of five minor candidates – who obtained about 1% of the vote between them in the August poll – would appear on the ballot paper. A sixth minor candidate has been declared bankrupt since the August poll, disqualifying him from running again.
The electoral commission said Mr Kenyatta had won the August vote by a margin of 1.4 million votes – or 54% of the total, compared to Mr Odinga’s 45%.
Human rights groups say about 70 people have been killed in protests since the August poll, and police were “directly implicated” in 33 of the deaths in the capital, Nairobi.
The violence is nowhere near that seen in Kenya after disputed polls in 2007, when at least 1,200 people were killed.
In parts of western Kenya which back Mr Odinga, election officials have been intimidated, raising fears of more trouble on election day.
“Demonstrations will continue. October 26 will be the biggest demonstration of them all,” Mr Odinga told thousands of supporters in Nairobi on Wednesday.
And in a related development, doubts are being cast on the integrity of the legislative and presidential elections that were recently conducted in Liberia, with some candidates raising red flags, and going further to assert that the results that have been declared this far were unacceptable.
The alleged irregularities being cited include the omission of names from the voters roll and the last-minute change of voting precincts.
Accordingly, the standard bearer of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Alexander B. Cummings; Councillor Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party and Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party are challenging the October 10 results.
Addressing a press conference at the ANC headquarters in Monrovia on Tuesday, Cummings said while he is thankful for the peaceful process and impressive turnout, he’s very concerned “about the integrity and subsequent validity of the recent election outcomes.”
“I am also disturbed by the reportedly thousands of Liberians that were denied their constitutional right to vote due to influences and negligence in the administration of the process.”
Like Cllr. Brumskine, Alexander Cummings also named stolen ballot boxes, mis-matched tally sheets, centres being moved without notice to voters, intimidation of poll watchers and unprecedented number of invalid votes and turned away voters as evidence that the election process lacked the capacity, preparedness and consistent application of rules to ensure that votes of Liberians were protected with a guarantee of the results that will reflect the true will of Liberians.
“During my campaign, I outlined reasons why we are where we are as a country, consistently noting that if we keep doing the same things, we will not get different results. Today, I find that truer than ever.
“The acceptance of an incompetent, inefficient and rigged electoral process is an illustration of that expression. By accepting current election results without challenge amid the numerous and widespread improprieties, we the Liberian people, would again be accepting the same behaviors and tolerating the same injustices.”
He cautioned that Liberia will never change Liberians continues to tolerate mediocrity and corruption in any facet of the electoral process.
“So, after much consultations and initial review of substantive evidence, I find it my duty and responsibility as a Liberian that is dedicated to creating change and reform, to explore challenging the purported outcome of the recent election.”
“To this end, we have engaged expert assistance to conduct detailed review of our findings with a view to verify and pursue every available avenue, legal and otherwise, to ensure a fair, transparent and valid election result.”
He, however, said the ANC would accept the outcome of the election as the will of the people if it was fair and competently conducted.
On his part, Mr. Benoni Urey, the standard bearer of the All Liberian Party has officially written the NEC claiming that votes attributed to him from Grand Bassa, Margibi and Bong Counties did not represent his presence in those counties.
The Chairman of the NEC, Cllr. Jerome Korkoya acknowledged the complaint and said it has been forwarded to the Hearing Committee for investigation.
And raising similar concerns as Cummings, Cllr. Brumskine says the October 10 election was void of the minimum standards required for the conduct of free, fair and transparent election.
“The October 10 elections did not pass the minimum standards required for free, fair and transparent elections.
These elections were characterized by gross irregularities and fraud which undermined the integrity of the elections and deprived thousands of Liberians their constitutional rights to vote.
Based on our assessment of the evidence available, the results of these elections are not valid,” he told journalists.
According to Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, the Liberty Party is conducting an in-depth investigation and will present to the National Elections Commission and evidence-back report to the National Elections Commission (NEC) for further action.
Cllr. Brumskine named the alleged stuffing of ballot box by a NEC presiding officer in Nimba; the alleged breaking of a ballot box seal in Bassa, the late opening of polls at some centers, and the omission of names from the voters roll, among others as some of the fraud and irregularities that flawed the elections.
“The Liberian people deserve to know what was done and who did it. And they deserve a valid, transparent election.”
“So many Liberians were deprived of their constitutional right to vote; we will, therefore, be requesting a re-run of the election.”
“The burden of history will be appropriate laid where it should,” he asserted.
Additionally, Liberians from all walks of life have also expressed concerns over the credibility of the elections and questioned the huge number of invalid votes.
According to the NEC, about 84,000 invalid votes were counted during the counting process.
But some Liberians believe this number of invalid votes wouldn’t have been attained had the NEC conducted proper civic education and taught voters how to mark the ballot paper.
“If you looked at it critically, NEC knew what they were doing; I think they had another motive for doing what they by not training the staffs that were conducting the process.”
“If you could see how irritating the NEC staffs were on the voting day, you wouldn’t be asking me how I see the election.”
“The poll workers were responsible for the all those invalid votes, and I want to believe they took instructions from the bosses at NEC,” he stated.
“This election is interesting my brother, so tell me, who are those 84,000 plus voters that spoiled their ballots? So how is NEC really feeling about the huge number of invalid votes?
I think this tells me that NEC did not do well in their sensitization process; maybe Korkoya was fighting and concentrating on his nationality battle rather than focusing on our process,” Eddie Martin of the University of Liberia noted.
Eddie further stated that the various political parties and politicians did not do we as well to sensitize voters in order to avoid the huge number of invalid votes.
“If our various political parties and politicians would have taken the responsibility to sensitize those they were seeking votes from, the huge number of invalid votes would have dropped drastically — maybe to around 10,000 or less, but everyone were focusing on how they can pull crowd and forgot to teach the people how to vote them in office,” he added.
President Uhuru Kenyatta