Electoral commission chairman Wafula Chebukati has publicly admitted that divisions were harming the agency’s operations.
He warned that he could not guarantee a credible election without critical staff changes.
Mr Chebukati set conditions that must be fulfilled before he can continue serving in his position at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
He wants President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga to meet for dialogue.
He also wants IEBC staff adversely mentioned in election irregularities to step aside so that the seven-member team he put in place can oversee next week’s presidential election.
He demanded that the commission should be left to operate independently.
If the above conditions are not met, the chairman said, he will not be able to deliver a credible election.
“I am convinced that without critical changes in key secretariat staff, we may not have a free, fair and credible election,” Chebukati said at the Bomas of Kenya yesterday.
The chairman decried the poor relationship among IEBC staff, noting that it had hampered the reforms he wished to implement.
“I have made several attempts to make critical changes but all my motions have been defeated by the majority of commissioners. Under such conditions, it is difficult to guarantee free, fair and credible elections,” Chebukati added.
He noted that his profession did not allow him to sit on the fence and allow some commissioners to make partisan decisions.
“As a lawyer, I can’t be pushed by the majority to accept legal opinions that serve partisan interests and are not grounded in the Constitution or the law. In the least, this is intellectual dishonesty, which my professional training demands I abhor,” he said.
“I would rather bow out with my name still intact and my head held high than be part of a process where personal interests dwarf the interests of the country. I am not ready to sacrifice my eternal legacy for short-term gains that will sear my conscience.”
Chebukati noted that he was not ready to go down in history as the national returning officer who plunged the country into further crisis than he found it.
“It is already painful to be on record as the chairman of IEBC that presided over a presidential election that was nullified by the Supreme Court.”
He added that the divisions at IEBC were weighing him down and making it hard to deliver on his mandate.
“The burden placed on me as chairman is huge. Yet, I can’t move forward with a divided commission. I can’t move forward when presidential candidates refuse to put their personal interests aside and, for once, serve their country,” he said.
“If candidates on all sides put their personal interests aside, first it will affect the quality of decisions we make. They will realise that for the greater good of the country, there are things that they would like to do, that they will have to stop, and things that they don’t want to do that they will have to do.”
He warned that if Uhuru and Raila did not meet for talks, there could be violence as was witnessed after the 2007 elections.
“Political and economic problems can’t be fixed through elections or legal mechanisms alone. As the referee of this contest, I am extending an open invitation to the candidates to a meeting that I will preside over so they can talk,” Chebukati said.
He also appealed to leaders as well as Jubilee Party and National Super Alliance (NASA) supporters to forge towards political dialogue to help restore dignity, genuine independence and respect for institutions.
“I fully concur that Kenya needs urgent national dialogue. I therefore urge all political leaders to turn their attention to work on this national dialogue to give us a chance to save the soul of our country.”
He noted that when all Kenyans saw their leaders talking, tensions would subside.
“Politics should not make people enemies. Only in primitive societies do divergent views lead to enmity. The fact that we disagree doesn’t mean we are enemies who will allow our supporters to kill each other,” he said, adding that only a political agreement could solve the country’s problems.
“When all commissioners and staff truly commit to serving the country rather than partisan political interests, when we work together to create a conducive environment for Kenyans to express their sovereign will, then I can be truly confident of a credible presidential election. Only then can I commit to serve as the national returning officer.”
He said IEBC was ready for the repeat election.