IN AN UNPRECEDENTED MOVE that has set thousands of gossipy tongues wagging ablaze, Kenya’s Independent Electoral Commissioner (IEBC) Dr. Rose Akombe, has done the unthinkable–resigned from office before getting herself murdered.
The IEBC ex-Commissioner took the impunity bull by its horns, resigned and sought a self- imposed asylum in the US, two weeks to the repeat presidential election.
And her alleged pursuers are seething with rage because she denied them a chance to murder her. Without addressing the pertinent and credible discrepancies raised by Akombe, they are now demanding that the international community gang up against Akombe and deport her back to Kenya to face charges of abdicating duties and using government money for air fare.
In Kenya no one resigns. Unlike other known nations where presidents and governments have resigned on mere suspicion of being involved in corruption or crime, she has mocked her seniors by resigning on grounds of integrity.
How dare she? This is the question that government officials have been asking. What’s wrong with her? Why spill the beans when everything had been planned so well to ensure that the elections re-run goes on regardless of whether it is credible or not. Why is she incorruptible and hard headed?
“The Commission has become a party to the current crisis. The Commission is under siege.”
Too little, too late. Akombe is now safely in the hands of Department of Homeland Security and untouchable under the immigration laws. She used the funds under duress and her attorney can easily refund the fee or have the money confiscated until her accusers are charged with threat and intimidation of an American citizen.
In a statement to the media the UN, New York Secretariat staff, explained why she resigned.
“I have agonized over the decision to leave my committed IEBC FIELD staff and my country. My decision to leave the IEBC will disappoint some of you, but it is not for lack of trying. I have tried the best I could do given the circumstances. Sometimes, you walk away, especially when potentially lives are at stake. The Commission has become a party to the current crisis. The Commission is under siege,” she said in a statement.
Unlike her ICT colleague, the late Chris Msando, who never got a chance to escape and was strangled to death by mysterious persons a few weeks to the bungled August 8 presidential elections, Akombe did not wait for the fate that awaits numerous Kenyans who have been killed for questioning the status quo – from prominent politicians to ordinary witnesses and alleged witnesses at the mistrial-concluded International Criminal Court trials in The Hague. She was threatened. Her brother was threatened. Before she escaped, she arranged for her brother and family to escape from Kenya using the Namanga route.
Following consistent patterns of chilling murders of those who stand up to power in Kenya, had Akombe not escaped, she would probably have been shot several times in the chest and head, strangled, planted in an accident crash with an unknown married man or eaten up alive by wild animals in a forest, or at worst found at the foot of Got Alila Hills with her unrecognizable charred remains in acid. The script would have been horrible and Kenyans would have forgotten her in less than two weeks. But Msando’s friendly ghost seemingly protected her as she carefully planned her escape from the jaws of death.
From the days when Kenya’s first vice president Jaramogi Oginga Odinga outsmarted the Kenya government who placed him under house arrest in the 80s, by dressing like a woman and walked out balancing a basket of oranges on his head, Akombe has moved asylum escape notches higher. She allowed the government to ignorantly help her escape, used their money, time and resources.
Rumors doing the rounds in Kisumu alleged, though, that Jaramogi had turned into a housefly, landed with a buzz on the forehead of one of the guards and flown off to asylum. Ridiculous as it sounded, it merely projected how difficult and lucky one was to escape from the jaws of the dark regime.
Akombe, who has faced several death threats for her integrity, refusal to serve in a corrupt and spineless commission and intimidating government that cannot deliver a credible election, took advantage of her official duty to inspect presidential ballot papers in Dubai and escaped death by the skin of her teeth.
Like many asylum seekers before her, Akombe now takes the heat of being branded a liar, sellout and all the insults Kenyan tribal charlatans on Facebook have for people who do not share their ideals or principles and belong not to their tribe or caucus. She also faces the traumatizing pain of never meeting her loved ones again (unless perhaps in a third country), attending family members’ funerals or returning home.
Akombe, a dual citizen successfully fled Kenya a second time after she was arrested at the airport, on her first attempt. She was turned away at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Nairobi on flimsy grounds on instructions from higher authorities. They cried that she was fleeing and indeed she was. She faithfully bid her time with plan B and when an opportunity arose, she jumped on it without a second thought.
After fleeing the danger zone, Akombe gave interviews from New York in which she alleged that the IEBC was not following the Constitution or any laid down rules but that the secretariat was getting orders direct from Jubilee leaders and affecting them without consulting the commissioners. Akombe who has managed elections in various parts of the world due to her outstanding credentials in policy and election laws could not compromised her integrity and called it a day.
Both IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezra Chiloba were expected to resign but failed to muster Akombe’s courage.
“I know many of you expected me to resign but I have a duty in front of me and will not allow individuals to burn Kenya. I appeal to key political parties to dialogue in the remaining days to enable us to conduct a free, fair and credible election,” Chebukati said.
Chiloba, meanwhile claimed he was too busy with re-run plans to resign but later went on a three-week compulsory leave, pending the October 26 repeat presidential election.
Former Kenya Electoral Commission (ECK) chair Samuel Kivuitu (RIP) refused to resign after Kenya’s bungled 2007 presidential elections in which 1200 Kenyans hacked each other to death and 650,000 people were displaced from their homes by people they mostly knew. Instead of announcing the results, Kivuitu who seemed to be under pressure from higher authorities claimed that he did not know who had won the election.
Akombe sets high standards for the impunity that continues to rock the country where tribalism like racism has gone to the dogs and emotions continually supersede reason or common sense. She has a PhD in global affairs and is no novice on how to conduct an election.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto also refused to resign when facing charges of crimes against humanity and forceful evictions of populations st the ICC and went ahead to stand for elections in 2013.
Resignation is simply not a Kenyan thing and Akombe’s courage makes her a first among firsts in the fight against impunity in developing countries.
The repeat election is expected in four days, with current caretake president Uhuru Kenyatta facing a reluctant opposition leader Raila Amolo Odinga, whose name may appear on the ballot box regardless of whether he runs or continues his withdrawal threats.