Nasa propaganda succeeding in bullying observer missions
Nature abhors a vacuum. Considering the experience Kenya has gone through over the past fortnight, it can safely be said that a vacuum of all types, especially one created in a difficult and febrile political atmosphere such as Kenya’s, is unhealthy.
On September 1, four judges of the Supreme Court dropped an unprecedented judicial bombshell. They annulled the presidential election held on August 8 citing “irregularities and illegalities” on the part of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), particularly in the transmission of the results. Notably, the judges did not cite fraud or manipulation of results which could have erased the 1.4 million vote-lead that President Kenyatta enjoyed over his main challenger, Raila Odinga.
Yet regrettably, the judges did not release the full reasoning behind their decision. And now, the vacuum created by that judgment has been filled by National Super Alliance (Nasa) online propagandists and the civil society activists who completely dominate debate in the mainstream and social media.
The analysis of the latest European Union observer mission statement is one of the clearest indications of the success of the ever-adept Nasa propaganda machine.
Observer missions around the world have a simple methodology. They randomly select a reasonably large and representative sample of polling stations and deploy observers to those stations without advance notice to the electoral authorities.
They then compare the tallies that they find in those stations with those used by the electoral authorities in determining the winner of the election.
To that extent, the EU observer team report is a clear endorsement of the integrity of the numbers in the election held on August 8.
The key segment of the report is the phase explaining its analysis of the results as compared to the findings of the Short Term Observers (STOS) deployed to 82 constituencies (just under a third of all the constituencies). The findings of the observer teams are compared with 1,558 scanned polling station results forms (34A).
The observers found that more training needs to be given to IEBC staff to improve the quality of their scans.
However, substance matters more than form. When compared with the findings of EU observers, the IEBC numbers and those of observers are exactly the same.
Even in the very small number of stations where a difference is detected, there is no clear pattern favouring a set of strongholds over the other, meaning that these could be attributable to clerical errors.
The key finding of the EU team states: “In the transcribing of polling station results onto constituency tally sheets (34Bs), small differences in numbers were found in some cases. In the forms examined there was little variation in the patterns of anomalies/errors between strongholds/swing constituencies, and no obvious advantage to one camp or another.”
The Nasa propaganda claims that the EU has somehow vindicated them only lays bare a simple fact that they need to contend with. Other than the blatantly biased Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu political civil society group which is essentially an extended arm of Nasa, no credible independent body has found evidence that the integrity of the numbers collated from polling stations across the country on August 8 is questionable.
However, the Nasa propaganda onslaught against the IEBC including David Ndii’s usual over-the-top posturing in the Saturday Nation on September 9 is designed to achieve a clear purpose.
The intention is to intimidate observers from doing their work independently and to bully them into backing one side of the political divide.
The observers, who have been battered for weeks on social media, are already being forced to change their ways. The EU in its statement, for example, said in future elections in Kenya, it will not issue a preliminary statement in 48 hours, reflecting the fact the bullying of observers and others that don’t march in lock-step with Nasa and political civil society is working.
The pressure is highest on the Elections Observation Group (ELOG), a coalition of local civil society and faith-based organisations that has successfully undertaken Parallel Voter Tabulation in Kenya in the past three election cycles.
Few innovations have helped to improve the transparency with which elections in emerging democracies are managed than PVT, an election day observation methodology that involves deploying highly trained, accredited observers to a representative random sample of polling stations to assess the conduct of the opening, voting and counting processes as well as to verify the official vote count.
ELOG has an excellent track record of accuracy in Kenya, successfully tracking the result of the 2010 referendum on the Constitution as well as for the 2013 General Election. PVT has been successfully applied in other African countries such as Nigeria (2011 and 2015), Ghana (2008, 2012 and 2016), Malawi (2009 and 2014) and Zambia (2008, 2012, 2015 and 2016).
On Election Day in Kenya, ELOG deployed 8,300 observers across all 47 counties and 290 constituencies including 1,703 specially trained PVT observers.
The observers found that 99.3 per cent of the stations had the Kenya Integrated Management Systems (KIEMS) kit deployed, a big improvement on 2013 when only 54 per cent of stations had the electronic voter identification devices.
More importantly, the ELOG projection of the results mirrored almost exactly that of the IEBC.
ELOG projected that Mr Kenyatta would garner 54.3 per cent against Mr Odinga’s 44.7 per cent.
ELOG is donor-funded and completely independent from government. It is another that has come under siege to “change its ways” from the opposition brigade that demonises all those that do not adopt a partisan lens. Will they withstand this pressure during the fresh election? That’s an open question.
Winston Churchill said that propaganda can go half the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. That is what we are seeing with the Nasa spin machine’s efforts to challenge using baseless propaganda the integrity of the numbers which represent the sovereign will of Kenyan voters as expressed on August 8.
Dr Otiso is a lecturer, School of Business and Management Science, University of Eldoret.