GIVE THE IEBC SPACE TO WORK
In the past couple of weeks, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has been put on the defensive in what appears to be a deliberate effort to discredit it. Some politicians have made statements that not only undermine the independence of the commission, but also set the country on a dangerous path. Let’s first reflect on the history of our electoral system. Following the controversial 2007 elections, Kenyans were in agreement that there was an urgent need for radical electoral reforms. The Interim Independent Electoral Commission was formed on recommendation of the Kriegler Commission and upon the disbandment of the Electoral Commission of Kenya. It conducted the 2010 referendum that gave us a new Constitution. It is the 2010 Constitution that established the IEBC, which managed the 2013 polls. Despite protests by the opposition, the IEBC was lauded by local and international observers for smoothly running the poll. Other than the failure of some electronic equipment, the IEBC did a commendable job.
It is in the nature of human beings to blame everyone, other than themselves , when they lose, especially in an election. We have seen this with the recent by-elections in Kericho and Malindi, where the losers called for a new electoral agency. The same calls were made by the opposition after it emerged that the Okoa Kenya signatures they presented to the IEBC were not enough to trigger a referendum as required by law.
It was not the IEBC’s fault that they could not get the one million valid signatures or that Kanu lost in the Kericho byelection or that Jubilee couldn’t convince Malindi residents to vote for their candidate.
Attacks on the IEBC for doing its work are not healthy, especially as we draw closer to the general election. Doubting its capacity to conduct free and fair elections is the wrong route to take as a country.
It was also unwise to call for the replacement of the commission at this point in time. This would be akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Institutional memory is key and what we needed to do is to evaluate its conduct of the previous elections and the strategic plan it launched last year to assess the gaps that needed to be bridged.
It is important that we work together and ensure all the gaps that were identified in the evaluation of the last election are bridged. This is the only way to build a strong and independent IEBC. We cannot have a strong electoral commission by constantly attacking it.
If there is impropriety by any official, we should deal with them individually while maintaining and enhancing the commission. Individuals should be held accountable without breaking the ideals and principles of the institution.
That said, we must also challenge the IEBC. Kenyans gave you a job and they expect it to be done efficiently and effectively, without fail. They expect nothing but integrity of the commissioners and the staff and a properly managed election. There is no room for mistakes whether in the preparations or in the management of the polls. The billions of shillings pumped into the commission by the taxpayer should be well utilised to deliver a credible election. The commission must be at the forefront in dealing with officers who either abuse their offices or are involved in impropriety. The ghosts of the alleged ChickenGate scandal must be dealt with without fear or favour. They must not be allowed to cloud the preparation and management of the next generalelection.
Respecting the independence of the IEBC, building trust around it and enhancing its credibility will go a long way in helping this country have a free, fair and credible election in 2017.
IT WAS UNWISE TO CALL FOR THE REPLACEMENT OF THE IEBC AT THIS POINT IN TIME