Fall and rise of new CA boss Ezra Simiyu Chiloba

Thursday, September 30th, 2021 00:00 |
Newly appointed Communications Authority of Kenya Director General Ezra Chiloba. Photo/PD/FILE

Ezra Simiyu Chiloba is back in circulation, three years after he was hounded out of office following a serious fallout in the commission over the handling of the 2017 presidential election.

A brief statement from the Communications Authority of Kenya on Tuesday announced the largely forgotten former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chief Executive as the new man at the State agency’s helm.

Making the announcement, CA board chairman Kembi Gitura said the board had appointed Chiloba for a four-year renewable term, following a competitive recruitment process to fill the position.

“Chiloba is a policy consultant and principle partner with Chil and Kemp consultancy and an advocate of the High Court of Kenya,” Gitura said in a statement.

Chiloba holds an undergraduate degree in Law from the University of Nairobi, a Masters of Arts degree from Central European University in Hungary and a Master of Science degree in programme management from the University of Oxford.

Although Chiloba had applied for the position in 2019 when it was advertised, the process had to start afresh after the High Court stopped the initial exercise over irregularities.

Information Communication Technology Association of Kenya (ICTAK) moved to court seeking to quash the vacancy notice because it excluded eligible members from competing for the position and was designed to favour a particular applicant.

It is during this waiting period that ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru appointed him to the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) board.

4G network

In April, the Employment and Labour Relations Court nullified the advert for recruitment of former CEO Francis Wangusi’s successor after finding that it was not in line with the law.

“It is clear that the advertisement for the position of the Director-General by the respondent (CA) failed to meet the minimum statutory requirements in terms of both the qualifications of the position and the process of advertisement,” Justice Maureen Onyango declared.

Chiloba will now take over from Mercy Wanjau, who has been acting for almost two years after Wangusi’s retirement.

At the helm of CA, Chiloba will be very instrumental once again in next year’s general election, since the authority is tasked with providing 4G network coverage across the country to facilitate the transmission of election results. 

The bespectacled lawyer found himself in the eye of a storm following the landmark nullification of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election victory by the Supreme Court in September 2017. 

He became the punching bag of both the political class and civil society as he was accused of overseeing the bungling of the elections.

The fallout in the electoral body stemmed from the Supreme Court decision on September 1, 2017 in which IEBC was accused of committing irregularities and illegalities.

The fallout largely pitted the Commission against the Secretariat, headed by Chiloba, with commission chairman Wafula Chebukati demanding answers from the former on what might have led to the bungled elections.

 In the first of several memos to Chiloba dated September 7, 2017, Chebukati ordered him to explain why some election result forms lacked security features, explain the purchase of satellite phones that never worked and why hundreds of polling stations did not send results of the presidential election to the national tallying centre.

Compulsory leave

He also demanded an explanation on how an account created in his name was used to log into the elections management system thousands of times.

In a strange twist, this particular memo and another one, both from Chebukati were leaked, resulting in the IEBC chairman firing his personal assistant. 

The fallout from the leaked memo would see the commission convene a “team building” retreat for IEBC officials at the Great Rift Valley Lodge in Naivasha on September 11, to heal the rifts that had started emerging between the commissioners.

The commission would later pass a resolution to send him on compulsory leave in 2018 before eventually firing him in 2019.

Chiloba then moved to court seeking Sh52 million in compensation for illegal termination of his contract and the case is still pending.

As fate would have it, the former electoral agency boss got a partial scholarship to study for his second masters degree at Oxford University soon after he was fired.

He juggled between class, farming and consultancy on governance following his tumultuous exit from Anniversary Towers.

In July 2020, Chiloba took journalists on a tour of his Hilmost farm located in his native Trans-Nzoia county. He does mixed farming planting maize, bananas, passion fruits and coffee.

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