IEBC has messed up badly and officials should be sent packing

Saturday March 26 2016

IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan (centre) and IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba (right) and Vice Chairperson IEBC Lilian Mairi during a press briefing at the IEBC offices in Nairobi on March 24, 2016. True, the IEBC has shot itself in the foot due to allegations of corruption, but what should be of greater concern is that we are heading towards an election with a commission that has been thoroughly discredited on several fronts, and which has, therefore, lost much credibility. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA |

IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan (centre) and IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba (right) and Vice Chairperson IEBC Lilian Mairi during a press briefing at the IEBC offices in Nairobi on March 24, 2016. True, the IEBC has shot itself in the foot due to allegations of corruption, but what should be of greater concern is that we are heading towards an election with a commission that has been thoroughly discredited on several fronts, and which has, therefore, lost much credibility. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | 

By MAGESHA NGWIRI
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Playing the Devil’s advocate does not come easy for some of us, but on the matter of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, I’ll give it a try.

Let them all go home, I say, right from the commissioners to the cleaners at Anniversary Towers, because they are all likely to be tainted by political incorrectness. Just look at the mess they made of the Okoa Kenya initiative!

Maybe, just maybe, if they do go immediately, one day, we Kenyans will get to hold free and fair elections which have eluded us for the past five decades.

Probably, the folk at the new electoral commission will be able to count signatures competently so that anyone who wants to hold a referendum can do so without having to worry whether the required numbers add up.

It shouldn’t matter whether some of the signatures resemble stray duikers in the bush. Under the Constitution, people have a right to sign their names any way they like.

One day, we hope, Kenya will become a beacon of hope among the nascent democracies of the world, but it won’t happen just yet.

We have been served very poorly by the electoral commissioners of the past who could never see a ballot without wanting to rig it, and we cannot go on like this especially with an all-important election coming up.

PARTY LOYALTIES

But on a more serious note, it is about time Kenyans forgot about party loyalties and started asking themselves a few hard questions.

How is it possible that since the restoration of the multiparty system, no electoral commission has delivered a ‘clean’ election, one not marred by disputation and allegations of bias?

Are there inherent weaknesses in the way these commissions are set up, and if so, what have our legislators been doing?

During the 2007 elections, the then Electoral Commission of Kenya was accused of rigging in the Party of National Unity.

Its chairman, Mr Samuel Kivuitu, did not die a happy man for the consensus was that his outfit had entirely mishandled the election, leading to the post-election violence.

The ECK was disbanded the following year in total disgrace, and the Interim Independent Electoral Commission formed to replace it a year later.

Its successor, the IEBC, was formed shortly after the promulgation of the Constitution, one of its core duties being to conduct and supervise referendums.

It was also supposed to conduct continuous voter education and registration, a duty it has not performed well so far, citing financial constraints.

In fact, it is not easy to say the IEBC has performed any of its core tasks very well, which has given ammunition to those crying for its dissolution.

However, I am not convinced that the commission had a role in robbing the Opposition of victory during the 2013 elections.

CORD ROBBED ITSELF

I firmly believe that Cord robbed itself by believing too much in its own hype, and in opinion polls.

Incidentally, if I had my way, I would ban all political polling during an election year, for pollsters wield too much influence, not on the outcome, but on perception, and perceptions can be manipulable and misleading.

For how long shall we keep agitating for the disbandment of electoral commissions whenever things go wrong for one or the other party?

This has become a real charade. True, the IEBC has shot itself in the foot due to allegations of corruption, but what should be of greater concern is that we are heading towards an election with a commission that has been thoroughly discredited on several fronts, and which has, therefore, lost much credibility.

Now, when an arbiter in a contest loses credibility, the outcome of that contest will lose legitimacy.

Whether a referee shows bias or is merely suspected of doing so are one and the same thing - the loser will always cry foul.

This, I suspect, is what happened, and it will be an uphill struggle for the IEBC to win the trust of a sizeable number of Kenyans.

Therefore, I agree with those who argue that it should go, but not because it stiffed Okoa Kenya.

It is because among its leaders are crooks who should be in jail.

The other truth, of course, is that we shall never have an electoral commission peopled by angels.

And let’s forget the notion of political parties nominating commissioners. That is a definite non-starter.

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