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Kenyan Officials Say They Can't Guarantee Fair Process In Presidential Election


A rerun of the annulled presidential election in Kenya is in jeopardy. Two top election officials say they cannot guarantee a fair process. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports one of them fled to the United States fearing for her safety.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Roselyn Akombe was in Dubai checking on the progress of ballot papers being printed for next week's elections, and she thought about her staff in western Kenya. Yesterday, some of them were violently beaten by people who believe they can't get a fair election. And Akombe decided to take off to the U.S., quit her position as one of the top elections officials in Kenya.

ROSELYN AKOMBE: Frankly, I do not believe that at this point that the solution to the country is the kind of election that is being organized right now.

PERALTA: Kenya's Supreme Court threw out the results of the August 8 elections because they found too many irregularities. Akombe says the commission has done little to address those problems, and they've failed to conduct an independent audit to find out if the election results were hacked like the opposition leader claimed. Akombe says when she looks at Kenya now, she sees a country headed toward the same violence that left more than a thousand people dead following the 2007 elections. A hurried, flawed election next week would solve none of those issues, she says.

AKOMBE: Why is it that we always have a problem with our electoral integrity?

PERALTA: Following Akombe's resignation, Kenya's elections chief, Wafula Chebukati, described a dysfunctional commission, with officials doing their jobs with a clear political agenda.

WAFULA CHEBUKATI: I cannot move forward when presidential candidates refuse to put their personal interests aside and for once serve their country.

PERALTA: Those presidential candidates went about their business. President Uhuru Kenyatta held a rally and asked his voters to come out in mass next week. And opposition leader Raila Odinga announced a, quote, "mother of all rallies," designed to disrupt those elections. Akombe says she tried to point out wrongs, but ultimately, now that she is abroad, she can say what she was too afraid to say in Kenya, that the electoral commission is being eaten up by the same deep political divisions that have already caused so much bloodshed in the country. I tell her that right now half of Kenya is dismissing her claims because they view her as partisan.

AKOMBE: I am speaking out because I am hoping that there are some sober heads - sorry to be emotional - that there are some people who will take this up and redeem that country before it goes down the drain.

PERALTA: She gets emotional, and we end our interview. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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