Kenya’s President William Ruto said this week that there was a plot to murder the country’s top electoral official last August to prevent him from announcing Ruto as the winner of the presidential election. This was the first time the president has mentioned the plot after months of rumors on social media, and Ruto’s supporters are urging an investigation.
President Ruto made the allegation at the State House Tuesday as he met with outgoing commissioners of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, including outgoing chairman Wafula Chebukati.
Last August, Chebukati declared Ruto as winner of Kenya’s presidential election, which Ruto won by a narrow margin over his main challenger Raila Odinga.
Ruto alleged that unnamed individuals plotted to kill the IEBC chairman and take other steps so the election results could not be announced.
“The mechanism constituted a syndicate to execute a series of strategies consisting of bribery, blackmail, extortion, threats and intimidation of various public officials of the IEBC, attempt their abduction, torture and assassination, to storm the national tallying center and attempt treasonous insurrection,” he said.
Rumors about efforts to disrupt the election have circulated on social media for months but police have yet to open an investigation.
Opposition parties say if Ruto has evidence about a plot, he should order police to investigate.
The head of the former ruling Jubilee party, Jeremiah Kioni, says those suspected of threatening the electoral commissioner’s lives must be charged.
“There are unfortunate things coming out from the head of state. If he had evidence, he should have used the agencies charged with the criminal justice system to ensure that those culpable are dealt with by the institutions as provided for in our laws,” he said.
Many Kenyans see Ruto’s allegations as plausible. Chris Msando, a Kenyan official in charge of ICT, was kidnapped and killed a few days before the 2017 election. That killing is still unsolved.
However, political commentator Martin Andati says Ruto is making a mistake by bringing attention to the alleged plot to kill Chebukati.
“He is opening a pandora’s box because the late Msando was abducted and eventually killed and Kenyans have not forgotten,” he said. “The country has started healing and you saw the reception President Ruto received in Luo Nyanza but when he starts making allegations, he is now making and opening wounds which has started healing, then we will get derailed, and we will not be able to heal as a country, we will not be able to address some of the challenges that he needs to address and we are likely to lose focus.”
Ruto won the August election by less than two percentage points over Odinga, and four members of the seven-member IEBC challenged the official results in court. The Supreme Court upheld the final count.
Kenya now faces months without an electoral commission after the terms of the last three remaining commissioners, including the chairperson, ended this week.
The departing commissioners have recommended the commissioners be appointed to the electoral body two years before the election, strengthening electoral laws and improving security at the tallying centers in the country.
Kenya has appointed electoral commissioners through the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG) since 1997. The opposition anticipates that a similar approach will be used in the formation of a new election agency.