The Star (Kenya) - - Voices -

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.


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