The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has been hit by an acute shortage of temporary staff in opposition strongholds with only 10 days to the presidential election.
The situation has been occasioned by the move by Nasa leader Raila Odinga to pull out of the race, maintaining that the poll will not take place.
Citing security concerns given some of the politicians from affected areas have vowed to stop the exercise from taking place in their regions, a number of clerks, presiding officers and their deputies failed to turn up for training last week, plunging the IEBC into panic mode.
And, as part of the rapprochement, the commission dispatched senior teams one led by chairman Wafula Chebukati and the other by Dr Roselyn Akombe on Saturday to the affected counties largely in Western Kenya to try and mitigate the situation. Dr Akombe was in Homa Bay and Kisumu.
Publicly, they would not admit the situation is bad since they are determined to recruit the junior staff before election day.
Migori, Siaya, Homa Bay and Kisumu counties are worst hit by the boycott forcing the commission to extend the requirement deadline.
In other Western counties of Busia, Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma and Trans Nzoia, the officers are reluctantly turning up for training.
Mr Chebukati and his team, who were in Bungoma and Trans Nzoia on Saturday, are hoping to make the officials change their minds.
And to assuage the fears, the commission has said it will deploy extra security to the region.
The chairman told the Nation he had sent Dr Akombe to assess the situation in Nyanza.
“Commissioner Akombe will give us a situational report on Monday (tomorrow),” he said on Saturday.
Dr Akombe admitted there were challenges but exuded confidence they would be sorted out.
“I would be lying if I said everything is in order. The truth is a lot needs to be done to guarantee the safety of all our staff across the country,” she said.
Addressing presiding officers in Kisumu County on Saturday, Commissioner Akombe assured the officials that IEBC will figure out how best to deal with security challenges that might arise.
“We hopefully shall have had some guidance on how to move forward. We shall definitely have different security measures or arrangements in this part of the country to allow the voters to be able to express their will,” Dr Akombe said at Tom Mboya Labour College.
It also emerged that some of the returning officers in the affected regions were asking for transfers.
Fearing the locals may turn their wrath on them for disobeying Mr Odinga’s call, a high school teacher who was a presiding officer at a Kisumu polling centre confided in us that some of the opposition supporters have told them that they could go as far burning their homes if they heed the IEBC call. They would be deemed as traitors, he said.
“The risk is not worth whatever offer the commission would be making,” she said, sentiments shared by her colleagues in about half a dozen other counties.
Another challenge the commission is facing is having to reconfigure the server to accommodate additional candidates following the High Court order.
IEBC, however, says that it is all systems go.
This week, commissioners Abdi Guliye and Dr Akombe will be leaving the country for Dubai to witness the printing of ballot papers by Al-Ghurair.
“We are also finalising with OT-Morpho on mode of results transmission,” commissioner Paul Kurgat said on Saturday, downplaying the staff shortage. He said the training was going on unimpeded.
With regard to technology, IEBC has now announced late entrants into the fresh presidential race on October 26 will not be included in the results transmission system (RTS) “owing to significant time constraints to successfully deploy the same”, according to an internal memo by CEO Ezra Chiloba
The memo further says the text results will not be taken into account.
“In other words, the RTS text results (provisional results) that would automatically be collated and displayed on the screen or website shall not be made available. However, the commission is considering alternative forms of display,” Mr Chiloba informed directors, managers and the commission’s field staff of the commission resolution.
Following the Wednesday High Court ruling, IEBC decided to include seven candidates of the eight who had participated in the nullified election of August 8.
The seven are President Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga, Dr Ekuru Aukot, Abduba Dida, Joseph Nyagah, Michael Wainaina and Japheth Kavinga Kaluyu.
Mr Odinga has, however, written to the IEBC informing the commission of his withdrawal from the October 26 election citing lack of reforms and opaqueness by IEBC.