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 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 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.
On Saturday, Inspector- General of Police Joseph Boinnet told the 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 Mwenda Njoka said.
READ: Foreign travel ban for civil servants
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 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.
READ: Police: Chebukati security detail intact
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.