My battles with Raila Odinga: Issack Hassan opens up
Former IEBC chairman Isaack Hassan has revealed how Raila Odinga ganged up with civil society to frustrate him over election rigging claims.
“In a country with no culture of conceding electoral defeat, three-and-a-half years were spent by these Opposition leaders honing a sense of victimhood to the effect that the presidential elections were rigged,” says Hassan.
Hassan says that after the 2013 polls, Raila, who lost in the presidential polls, ganged up with his supporters, civil society and “international think tanks” to tarnish the name of the Supreme Court and the electoral agency.
He says that after unanimously upholding Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory, Raila singled him out and former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga for “a special criticism”.
In sections of his forthcoming memoirs released during the Sixteenth Cambridge Conference on Electoral Democracy in the Commonwealth, in Cambridge, England, recently, Hassan expressed how Raila frustrated him after the disputed 2013 General Election.
Since then, Hassan said, every step that the Commission undertook was castigated to portray that the election management board was incompetent and “in bed with the governing party”.
“Nothing we said or did seemed to persuade those who were aggrieved with the loss of the presidency and the lack of basis of the alternative facts and false narrative that they had created and started believing in,” he said.
The former IEBC boss said that his Commission firmly dismissed demands by the Raila-led Opposition to resign under accusations that they had rigged President Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto in.
Hassan said that they adamantly demanded the Opposition to follow the law on their removal from office, bearing the brunt of endless fierce attacks.
He said: “I believed if I stepped down under these conditions I will be succumbing to intimidation and give credence to the false claims and allegations being made against us. I made the decision to stay strong and insist on respect for the rule of law in removing the Chair and Electoral Commissioners from office”.
Hassan went on: “The Chief Justice, perhaps fed up with the whole public lynching, chose to retire early one year before his term ended. However, we did not have that option.”
He said that Raila, jointly with a civil society activist, filed a petition in Parliament for their removal from office in 2014, but it was dismissed, citing that it lacked merit.
Consequently, a similar petition was filed in Parliament in 2016 but dismissed, after which the Opposition sponsored a petition for a referendum for Kenyans to disband and reconstitute the Commission.
However, the petition was to be signed by at least a million registered voters, but the Commission had only 800,000 registered voters as of that time, hence, thwarting the Opposition move.
Hassan narrated how public protests were staged at the IEBC offices every Monday.
“It was a spectacle to watch demonstrators outside our offices with all manner of offensive banners such as ‘IEBC Must Go’, ‘We don’t want thieves’, ‘Jubilee equals IEBC’, ‘Isaack Hassan go back to Mogadishu’, ‘Wanted dead or alive – Isaack Hassan’,” he said.
Hassan said that they found it necessary to step aside so as to avoid a looming political confrontation and also save the institution from further “cannibalization”.
“It was clear to everyone that we had become sacrificial lambs,” said Hassan.
He said he agreed to step down voluntarily from office in January this year after serving for seven years and 10 months.
The former chairman did not spare civil society groups, terming them “individuals who are part of the army of supporters of politicians and political parties”.
“Some civil society are neither civil nor a society. They traffic in partisanship while pretending to be impartial. The protest industry has become their fishing ground and instituting public interest litigation that has political ends has become a means to an end,” he pointed out.
Hassan handed over the mantle to a fresh Commission chaired by Wafula Chebukati.
On January 20, Chebukati assumed office with six other commissioners – namely Boya Mulu, Margaret Mwachanya, Roselyn Akombe, Consolata Nkatha, Paul Kurgat, and Abdi Guliye.
“As a collective responsibility, we must put a stop to the connection between elections and electoral malpractices, the worst of them all, electoral violence,” said Chebukati, after being sworn in by Chief Justice David Maraga.
In the run-up to the August 8 2017 polls, Raila engaged the electoral body in endless battles over its preparedness.
In what is perceived to be his last stab at the top job, Raila has engaged in unrelenting, aggressive and complex in-and-out of court battles to eliminate what he calls all possible electoral theft.
Away from the public glare, Raila and his National Super Alliance brigade wrote tens of letters to the IEBC chiefs, seeking, among others, assurances that the election will be tamper-proof.
In a memorandum to the IEBC, NASA, through its head of Presidential Campaign Willis Otieno, demanded the removal of three top IEBC staffers, including CEO Ezra Chiloba.
The Alliance demanded that Chiloba, Director of ICT James Muhati and Director of Voter Registration Immaculate Kassait be excluded from poll preparations.
In their memorandum dated July 10, 2017, NASA said that Chiloba, as the Commission’s accounting officer, has failed to oversee crucial electoral processes and bears the ultimate responsibility for the failures.
“We demand that the CEO be sent on compulsory leave and appropriate disciplinary measures be taken against him for incompetence,” part of the memo stated.
They were unsuccessful.
Raila had insisted that Dubai-based printer Al Ghurair was closely associated with the Kenyatta family and Uhuru’s brother Muhoho Kenyatta, demanding the cancellation of a Sh2.5 billion tender to print ballot papers.
This was just one among a series of court cases filed by NASA, in what they termed as a weapon to curb rigging loopholes.
After the August 8 polls, the ODM party leader declined to concede defeat to incumbent President Uhuru, claiming that the electoral agency’s database was hacked to rig votes and deny him victory.
Raila alleged that Jubilee gained access to the IEBC Election Management database and altered results to favour Uhuru.
But on Wednesday, Raila opted to challenge Uhuru’s victory by going to the Supreme Court, where he said he would “demonstrate to the whole world the making of a computer-generated President”.
He declared: “This is just the beginning. We will not accept and move on”.
A visibly agitated Raila promised a protracted battle against what he said was the third time “the candidate who lost the election has been declared President”.
Hassan also recalled how his predecessor – Samuel Kivuitu – was subjected to similar public trial by and through the media and condemned unheard, by the Opposition.
Hassan said that after the 2007 polls, the ECK was turned into an advocate of the High Court as a “convenient scapegoat for blame”.
Hassan said when “Kivuitu was asked, ‘Do you think President Kibaki won fairly?’ he had answered, ‘I don’t know because winning fairly entails more than just having the most votes’.”
He said media houses edited Kivuitu’s answer and grasped the first two words – “I don’t know” – to create the impression that the election chief did not know who won the Presidential election.
After 10 months of persistent and sustained attacks on the ECK, he said, protests and political rallies, the stage was set “for the sacrifice of the elections management board”.
Post-election violence followed the disputed General Election, resulting in the deaths of over 1,000 Kenyans. The ECK was disbanded.
He said that his predicaments started after being appointed as chairman of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEBC).
“The politicians never missed an opportunity to remind us they were the ‘boss’ and if we ‘grew horns’ they could easily deal with us the way they dealt with our predecessor, the ECK,” he noted.
Hassan said that the country’s IEBC chairman would only be at peace if there were a landslide victory, which he believes encourages concession by the loser.
“A landslide victory is indeed an election manager’s best friend. It encourages concession by a loser and minimizes criticism of its head. The smaller the margin, the bigger the scope of conflict and dispute,” he said.
In the IEBC victory signaling President Uhuru’s reelection, he has beaten Raila by almost 10 percentage points, at 54.27% and 44.74%, and a vote margin of 1,441,066 votes.
Raila has challenged the results at the Supreme Court.