IEBC under fire as James Oswago responds to ‘Jicho Pevu’ tape

Suspended (IEBC) Chief Executive Officer James Oswago. [PHOTO: STANDARD/FILE]
By GEOFFREY MOSOKU and FAITH RONOH

NAIROBI, KENYA: A bitter row has erupted between CORD and Jubilee over a tape recording of a conversation believed to involve a senior electoral official alleging that last year’s presidential election was flawed.

And suspended Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chief Executive Officer James Oswago Monday denied knowledge of a conspiracy to fix the March 4, 2013 presidential vote.

“I believe with all my heart that there was no conspiracy at whatever level within the commission to confer or deny advantage to any presidential candidate. If there was such conspiracy, I was not aware and never became part of it,” Mr Oswago said in a statement sent to newsrooms Monday, following the airing of the recording in a KTN investigative exposé into the validity of the polls.

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Oswago denied claims that the credibility of the IEBC was in question saying the election commission was not without fault.

The IEBC, he added, has admitted that the Electronic Result Transmission and Electronic Voter Identification systems underperformed vis-a-vis expectations but the commission however, did not compromise the results.

Oswago said he believed the recording was a conspiracy to harm or injure him or his career, and restated that from his point of view and full conviction, IEBC did a commendable job given the circumstances, in discharging its mandate in good faith.

Jubilee and CORD MPs however, have clashed over claims that the election was flawed and CORD has demanded for the disbandment of IEBC. CORD has backed the contents of the KTN exposé while Jubilee vehemently denies the piece, which implies that the outcome of the polls was compromised.

FAIR ELECTIONS

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“It is no secret that IEBC did not conduct fair national elections. They allowed themselves to be used to rig elections in 2013. They must not allow themselves to be used again as conduits for personal gain,” said Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o (ODM).

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed (ODM) said that it was very clear that the “elections were marred with irregularities and malpractice” and accused IEBC of failing to meet the requirements of the Constitution in conducting a free, transparent and fair election.  

“IEBC must be disbanded and the commissioners must now go. They have lost the moral ground to conduct any future elections,” the ODM MP said, adding that his sentiments are shared by the opposition leaders.

But National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale warned those plotting to eject the IEBC chiefs that Jubilee will not allow it and exonerated the commission from any blame for CORD’s loss.

Mr Duale said it would be unfair to target the referee every time a team loses while likening the election exercise to a football match, and adding that the coach has to take responsibility for a loss and not the referee.

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He told CORD to go back to the drawing board and re-examine their strategy instead of crying foul.

“I am a Manchester United (English Premier League team) fan for instance. Just like football, if Man U loses to Arsenal, we don’t blame the referee but the coach. Similarly CORD should not blame IEBC (ref) but should go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate their tactics,” Duale said.

He said that in 2007, ODM pushed for the disbandment of ECK for the bungled polls but unlike ECK, IEBC had met the expectations of the people by conducting free and fair polls from the 2010 referendum to the 2013 elections.

“I now understand CORD is planning to sponsor a petition to Parliament seeking the disbandment of the electoral commission but I am warning them that they will not succeed,” he said while insisting that Uhuru Kenyatta won the polls fairly and was vindicated by the Supreme Court.

“TNA and URP have 167 MPs against CORD’s 132 and Jubilee has the majority of MCAs. How then could CORD have won?” he queried.

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Duale and Kajiado West MP Moses Ole Sakuda however, demanded a full investigation into the alleged tape recording of a senior IEBC official and an ODM operative.

The MPs said the recording should be handed over to the authorities for forensic investigation.

tape recording

“That tape, if indeed recorded, should be handed over to the CID, Director of Public Prosecutions and EACC for further investigations and if it turns out to be true, then the law should take its course,” Ole Sakuda said.

Interestingly, CORD found an ally in the Jubilee coalition with outspoken Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter demanding that IEBC chiefs should be shown the door.

Mr Keter said Kenyans have lost confidence in the commission adding that it is hard to determine if the elections were botched when the credibility of the commission is already in question.

The outspoken MP however, insisted Jubilee won the polls.

“I lost faith in the commission right from the time it failed in demarcation of boundaries. Most of the commissioners are corrupt and a fresh recruitment exercise must be conducted and officials vetted,” Mr Keter said.

Keiyo South MP Jackson Kiptanui dismissed the claims saying the revelations are the same ones that were raised in the Supreme Court when CORD challenged the elections.

Mr Kiptanui, a close ally of Deputy President William Ruto believes the Jubilee coalition won the elections fairly. “What we are hearing was considered during the Supreme Court ruling, therefore, we stand by the ruling that declared the coalition winners.”

While noting that it is equally important for Kenyans to give their views concerning the election, Mr Kiptanui advised that it should be a learning experience to avoid similar discontent in future.

“It is good for people to have their say especially on issues of national interest but there is no cause for alarm. We won the election and if there are issues, then they should be channelled through the right procedures,” Kiptanui said.

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IEBC James Oswago Jicho Pevu