Kenya's controversial election commission quits

2016-10-07 14:21
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Nairobi - The election commission that oversaw Kenya's flawed 2013 polls and was tarnished by a corruption scandal will receive a $2m pay-off in return for agreeing to leave office early, local media reported on Thursday.

The nine commissioners will share the pot of cash, according to local newspaper reports.

Statements issued by both the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the government said they had "agreed on the terms for a dignified vacation from office for current IEBC commissioners".

The government said it had sought to "strike a balance between public interest, legal and constitutional demands, the contract of appointment to office of each Commissioner and the guidelines of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission," but did not state publicly what the exit package was worth.

IEBC chairman Isaack Hassan insisted that he and his team were "not a stumbling block in the preparation of the next general election," but nonetheless agreed to step down.

Politically-motivated ethnic violence 

Violent opposition-led protests in May and June against the election commission - seen as biased in favour of President Uhuru Kenyatta - forced the government to the negotiating table.

The IEBC has been mired in controversy since its establishment in 2010, when it replaced a discredited body that had presided over the disputed election of 2007 which triggered politically-motivated ethnic violence that killed over 1 100 people.

During the subsequent peaceful poll in March 2013, a host of hi-tech safeguards - including a biometric voter registration system - failed on the day leading many, especially in the opposition, to doubt Kenyatta's victory and the ability of the commission to deliver a credible election next year.

Corruption allegations have also dogged the body, with a UK court in 2014 finding two directors of British printing company Smith & Ouzman guilty of making corrupt payments worth $430 000 in order to win a contract to supply ballot papers.

Criminal charges 

The scandal was dubbed "chickengate" after the alleged code word for a bribe used in communications between the firm and its Kenyan agent.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office forwarded a dossier of evidence to Kenya's attorney general earlier this year but no prosecutions have yet begun. In July, Kenya's Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission exonerated all serving officials mentioned in UK court documents and recommended instead that four other individuals face criminal charges.

Kenya must now begin the process of appointing new election commissioners ahead of elections due on August 8, 2017.

Already there are fears of delays. "Concerns are mounting that the time for preparing for the 2017 elections is too short," said an editorial in the main Daily Nation newspaper.

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