A day after a damning blog post by Angela Kabari, the former Ushahidi employee and whistle blower of the sexual harassment allegations at Ushahidi, the board has fired Daudi Were, the former CEO, and appointed Nat Manning in an acting capacity.
In a statement published on the Ushahidi website and circulated to the media, the Ushahidi board said: “Following exhaustive consideration of the testimonies and evidence tabled by the respective parties in a sexual harassment claim, the Board of Directors of Ushahidi has dismissed Executive Director Daudi Were with immediate effect.”
On Monday the 17th of July, the board circulated an update after receiving a legal opinion from its lawyers that resulted in the suspension of Mr Were. In the update, the board said: “Following the review of the opinion and the completion of the Report, the Board has communicated its findings to all parties involved. We expect to conclude our process in the coming days, in accordance with the Employment Act in Kenya and international employment law. In the interim, the Board has placed the Respondent on suspension.”
[Read: Is Ushahidi under siege]
This update did not, however, produce the expected response from the ecosystem with ecosystem players now demanding the resignation of the entire board for mishandling the situation and creating a hostile working environment for female employees.
But on the 20th of June, Ms Kabari penned a blog ironically titled “Don’t raise your voice here” (Angela was the capacity building officer for a project called “All Voices Count”) where she detailed her account of the sexual harassment complaint she brought to the board and how the board handled the complaint in a disturbingly casual manner.
“I have two main bones of contention. The first is Daudi’s behaviour,” Ms Kabari wrote. “My second bone of contention is the board’s response. I have been deeply let down by the actions and inaction of David Kobia, Erik Hersman, Juliana Rotich, and Jenny Stefanotti. Ever since I lodged my complaint on the 4th of May, I have been subjected to all the negative repercussions that make victims of harassment afraid to speak out,” she continued.
These claims have pushed Ushahidi into very unfamiliar territory. Since its inception more than nine years ago, Ushahidi has been on the right side of history receiving multiple awards and accolades. This is despite the now open secret that the working environment at Ushahidi has been less than stellar.
With Daudi Were gone, Ushahidi needs to start all over again to rebuild its brand and reputation in the Kenyan, and maybe even the global, tech scene.
So, should the board resign to give Ushahidi a fresh start? What Ushahidi needs at this moment is a solid CEO who can restore its tattered image after which the board may decide to transition. Ms Kabari’s accusation of the board is damning and serious, and her assertion that the board needs to step down is not at all outrageous.
The fact that Ushahidi depends of grants and donations could complicate its sustainability should its well-wishers choose to believe Ms Kabari’s account. Perhaps the silver lining in this whole saga is that arguably, Ushahidi becomes the first company to fire their CEO after he was accused of sexual harassment.