Nasa pro­pa­ganda suc­ceed­ing in bul­ly­ing ob­server mis­sions

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - SUNDAY REVIEW - BY KENNEDY NTABO OTISO

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.

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