The United Nations has said that electoral agency commissioner Roselyne Akombe will “fairly soon” return to the global organisation, further fuelling speculation about her future at the elections body.
Dr Akombe worked at the UN for 15 years there before taking unpaid leave to come to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
“I am aware that she was on a leave of absence. At some point, I believe, fairly soon, it will be expiring and then she will return to her duties in the Department of Political Affairs,” UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told a UN press briefing on Thursday.
That Dr Akombe is still an employee of the UN, a body that appears keen on having her back before the completion of the six-year-term, has fuelled speculation that her trip to the US this week was to renew her status at the global body.
The IEBC Act allows any commissioner to resign at any time of their career by writing to the President, after which such a vacancy will be declared within seven days, and a new recruitment to start.
Dr Akombe, who has become the face of the IEBC by conducting virtually all TV interviews on its behalf, was stopped from boarding a plane and later released at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport on Tuesday as she travelled to the US.
During the Thursday press conference, Mr Haq said that though Dr Akombe was now a ‘separate individual’ as she worked for the IEBC, her space was still intact at the UN.
“Ms. Akombe, at some point, will re-join the Department of Political Affairs, and then she’ll be a UN staffer,” Mr Haq told reporters.
Dr Akombe was on Sunday non-committal on whether or not she will go back to the UN before the end of the six-year-term, but insisted that her mind was focused on the job for now.
“It is too early for me to make any decision on my future. My goal right now is to support our team that will be making our case at the Supreme Court,” Dr Akombe told the Nation in a text message minutes to 7pm on Sunday.
She was referring to a presidential elections petition that has been filed by opposition leader Mr Raila Odinga challenging the declaration of President Uhuru Kenyatta as the validly elected president
She told the Nation that she boarded the plane on her way to Nairobi soon after.
The comments by Mr Haq, the UN deputy spokesman, came after the global body had also defended her exit and the fact that she had been awarded an unpaid leave to join the IEBC.
In joining the commission, Dr Akombe took a reported 70 per cent pay cut.
“She has been granted special leave without pay to serve in the Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. She’ll provide technical electoral support to the Commission in preparation for the 2017 elections and support efforts to prevent post‑electoral violence in Kenya. The activity was approved in accordance with staff regulations… the proper staff regulations and staff rules,” said Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, in a January 23 briefing, shortly after she was sworn in.