Akombe opens up on inse­cu­rity fears; says brother fled coun­try over threats to his life

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - NATIONAL NEWS - BY JUSTUS WANGA jwanga@ke.na­tion­media.com

A brother of elec­toral agency of­fi­cial Dr Rose­lyn Akombe has fled the coun­try af­ter re­ceiv­ing sev­eral threat­en­ing mes­sages be­lieved to be tar­geted at his sis­ter and fel­low com­mis­sion­ers.

The 34-year-old man, who we are not nam­ing for se­cu­rity rea­sons, his wife and three chil­dren left the coun­try through the Na­manga bor­der point on Septem­ber 5 fol­low­ing sus­tained threats on his life by un­known per­sons in what is turn­ing out to be a wider plot to in­tim­i­date com­mis­sion­ers, es­pe­cially those per­ceived not to tow the “of­fi­cial line.”

“He left the coun­try last week when the threats be­came too much,” Ms Akombe con­fided in the Sun­day Na­tion in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view.

With­out point­ing fin­gers at any­body, Dr Akombe main­tained the threats di­rected at her brother were in­tended to in­tim­i­date her.

“He is a man who loves this coun­try and had al­ways re­sisted our at­tempts to get him some­thing to do abroad. I feel re­spon­si­ble for it. It feels bad but what can you do about it?” a dis­traught Akombe said.

The Sun­day Na­tion learnt that the man, who worked in one of the govern­ment min­istries, de­lib­er­ately avoided go­ing through the Jomo Keny­atta In­ter­na­tional Air­port (JKIA) for se­cu­rity rea­sons and in­stead trav­elled to Na­manga by road, be­fore cross­ing the bor­der to neigh­bour­ing Tan­za­nia.

He even­tu­ally landed in his host coun­try eight days later, af­ter pass­ing through five coun­tries.

Dr Akombe opened up on her own fears, say­ing never be­fore has she felt so inse­cure.

“I have been to So­ma­lia, Ye­men, Jor­dan,

Iraq and even Libya for se­cu­rity assess­ment mis­sions but on a per­sonal ba­sis I have never felt this inse­cure,” she said with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

She was re­fer­ring to her tour of duty in those coun­tries when she served in the Depart­ment of Po­lit­i­cal Af­fairs of the UN where she was an Un­der-sec­re­tary be­fore tak­ing leave to take up the IEBC job early this year.

Asked whether she had re­ported the threats on her and her brother to the po­lice, Dr Akombe an­swered in the neg­a­tive but did not give rea­sons.

Yes­ter­day, In­spec­tor- Gen­eral of Po­lice Joseph Boin­net told the Sun­day Na­tion that he was not aware of the in­ci­dent.

“I don’t know any­thing about what you have just told me. Noth­ing at all,” he said.

Just one week af­ter the Au­gust 8 polls, Dr Akombe was de­tained overnight at the JKIA by se­cu­rity of­fi­cers on grounds she did not have prior clear­ance from the head of Public Ser­vice Joseph Kinyua to leave the coun­try.

It took the per­sonal in­ter­ven­tion of US am­bas­sador Robert Godec to have Ms Akombe re­leased and al­lowed to pro­ceed with her jour­ney to the United States.

The Min­istry of In­te­rior later ex­plained the code of reg­u­la­tions for public ser­vants and em­ploy­ees of in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sions re­quired they seek clear­ance from au­thor­i­ties be­fore trav­el­ling abroad.

“The IEBC com­mis­sioner has pro­ceeded on her travel af­ter be­ing cleared. There is a code of reg­u­la­tions for public ser­vants and of­fi­cers. It af­fects even those in in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sions be­cause they are not pri­vate com­pa­nies,” In­te­rior Min­istry spokesman Mw e n d a Njoka said.

This was, how­ever, dis­puted with some ob­servers of­fer­ing that of­fi­cials of in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sions do not re­quire such nod from Mr Kinyua, oth­er­wise they lose their au­ton­omy.

Chair­per­son of the Kenya Na­tional Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights Kag­wiria Mbo­gori dis­puted the ex­ec­u­tive’s as­ser­tion that in­de­pen­dent of­fices and con­sti­tu­tional com­mis­sion of­fi­cers have to be cleared by the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent be­fore they travel out of the coun­try.

“For in­de­pen­dent of­fices and con­sti­tu­tional com­mis­sions, we are in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tions and our in­de­pen­dence is granted by the Con­sti­tu­tion of Kenya. And for travel of com­mis­sion­ers and even staff in our com­mis­sions, you do not need the clear­ance of the Head of Public Ser­vice. So, un­less there was any­thing else, be­cause we are not privy to the on-go­ings of that par­tic­u­lar case, our com­ment will have to be just that,” said Ms Mbo­gori said.

The lat­est in­ci­dent comes against re­ports that the se­cu­rity of top IEBC of­fi­cials has been beefed up fol­low­ing threats di­rected at them and, in some cases, their fam­ily mem­bers and close rel­a­tives.

Days be­fore he was mur­dered barely a week to the Au­gust 8 election, IEBC ICT man­ager Chris Msando had com­plained about threats to his life.

Po­lice chief Boin­net later went on record to as­sure that all IEBC staff would have their se­cu­rity en­hanced. He was re­spond­ing to an ap­peal by IEBC chair­man Wa­fula Che­bukati that the govern­ment pro­tects them.

“We shall also work with IEBC with a view to en­sur­ing all the com­mis­sion em­ploy­ees are ac­corded the req­ui­site se­cu­rity to en­able them dis­charge their man­date,” Mr Boin­net was quoted as say­ing.

In­ter­views with var­i­ous staffers at the polls body, es­pe­cially com­mis­sion­ers, re­vealed a num­ber of them had been threat­ened in one way or the other over the last two months.

The threats, the Sun­day Na­tion learnt, have been in the form of text mes­sages and calls from un­known per­sons.

Two other com­mis­sion­ers are equally af­fected in what has forced them to adopt a self-en­forced cur­few. This has meant that, as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure, they must be home be­fore or by 6 pm. They also avoid early morn­ing meet­ings that would re­quire them to be in town be­fore 6 am.

In the pe­riod lead­ing to and im­me­di­ately af­ter the elec­tions, one par­tic­u­lar com­mis­sioner’s se­cu­rity was en­hanced on the re­quest of Mr Che­bukati.

The op­po­si­tion has claimed com­mis­sion­ers seen as in­de­pen­dent were liv­ing in fear af­ter their se­cu­rity de­tail was with­drawn by the State.

“It is Mr Che­bukati’s con­sti­tu­tional right to have se­cu­rity and it is not a priv­i­lege. I want to tell Ju­bilee ad­min­is­tra­tion that if any­thing hap­pens to Mr Che­bukati, it will be held re­spon­si­ble,” said Bun­goma Sen­a­tor and Nasa prin­ci­pal Moses We­tang’ula.

The po­lice have since come out to deny re­ports of with­draw­ing se­cu­rity. Po­lice spokesman Ge­orge Kinoti said no changes had been made to Mr Che­bukati’s se­cu­rity ar­range­ments.

On Thurs­day, the Euro­pean Union ob­server mis­sion, in its in­terim state­ment, called on the govern­ment to pro­vide full se­cu­rity to IEBC of­fi­cials as the coun­try heads to the Oc­to­ber 17 re­peat pres­i­den­tial election.

I have been to So­ma­lia, Ye­men, Jor­dan, Iraq and even Libya for se­cu­rity assess­ment mis­sions but on a per­sonal ba­sis I have never felt this inse­cure,” Dr Akombe

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Dr Rose­lyn Kwamboka Akombe

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