Ezra Chiloba

Nationality: Kenya
Program: One-year MAPP
Graduated: 2008
Current job: Chief Executive Officer/Commission Secretary at Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission
Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Beyond Work

+1. Which Hungarian words do you still remember?

I am not good at foreign languages and Hungarian has been billed as one of the most difficult languages in the world. That said, three important words are still with me: igen [yes], nem [no], köszönöm [thank you].

+2. What was your dream job when you were ten years old?

Two of my neighbors were in the military, so I imagined myself being a military officer.

+3. What helps you wake up on Monday mornings?

The realization that there is something unaccomplished and it is my duty to do it. And – of course –you need an alarm beside you, just in case.

+4. What is your favorite way to unwind after a long day at work?

It really depends. Sleep. Listen to music and nothing else. Explore the latest scientific developments. Reflect on my faith and belief.

1. What led you to study public policy at CEU?

I had worked in the public sector and more specifically in the human rights field. In many ways, I was disillusioned by the disconnect between what I believed and the reality in my home country, Kenya, at that time. I therefore wanted to study a bit more about how public policy ideas could be translated into realities. I was more than happy to receive the CEU fellowship that enabled me to enroll in the one-year MA in Public Policy program (then offered by the Department of Public Policy).

2. What do you remember most about your time at CEU?

Well, except for the effects of winter on me, it was excellent being at CEU. The first thing that comes to mind is the diversity of cultures. There was no majority or minority nationality. Every continent and almost every country was represented. The freedom of thought in all of our classes meant that every idea counted and you did not have to agree with the professor. Seminars by eminent scholars and policy practitioners from around the world not only broadened our minds, but also provided insights into the link between policy and practice. The entire administration was very supportive. I remember the CEU Library ordering a book for my dissertation research that could only be purchased in New Zealand and Australia!

3. What have you been engaged in professionally since graduating from CEU?

I returned to Kenya when the country was going through a major social and political transition following the political crisis in 2007. Significant governance reforms, including constitutional and electoral reforms, have taken place since 2008. I have been privileged to work for numerous institutions supporting the reform process. Immediately after CEU, I started working for South Consulting, a public policy research firm, as a researcher tracking the implementation of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Agreements. I later worked for Oxfam Novib on their Human Rights Capacity Building Programme for Somalia. I then had the opportunity to work for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as a programme analyst for their governance programme and as a project manager for the electoral reforms and referendum project. It was an exciting period, as I was able to witness and influence policy reform efforts. After five years at UNDP, I took up a position as deputy chief of party/deputy team leader for the Drivers of Accountability Programme, managed by DAI, a globally renowned development company. I spent one year at DAI before moving to my current position as the chief executive officer/commission secretary of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the body responsible for managing elections in Kenya.

4. How have your policy studies at CEU contributed to your career?

The best thing is that I am now able to appreciate public policy issues from different perspectives. I am able to analyze policy issues, develop action points, and turn them into results. In the process, I am also able to consider the constraints imposed by limited resources, institutions, and disparate incentives among actors, as well as how they impact on my actions as a leader in the public sector. The fact that policy studies provide a multi-disciplinary approach to public problems and solutions has been an asset.

5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I don't know. There will be elections in Kenya in less than two years (August 2017). These elections are a major event for us and also my main focus. The expectations among Kenyans are very high, and we need to manage them. Knowing that my future is largely dependent on what I do today, I am focused on the present.

6. Do you have any advice for current students?

There is no place like CEU. Take advantage of every opportunity. I am always excited to meet CEU graduates who are influencing change in different parts of the world. They remind me that CEU alumni have many opportunities. My advice: cultivate an open mind while you're at CEU, and take that open mind with you when you graduate!

7. What is your favorite thing to do in Budapest?

A boat ride on the Danube River. A visit to some historical site or museum. Eating Turkish food if the Hungarian diet is strange. Boarding a train to nowhere. Springtime at Margaret Island. These were my favorite things to do. There are many things to do for anyone while in Budapest.

Read another alumni profile