IEBC yet to show that it learnt any lessons from 2013 elections

Saturday March 12 2016

From left: Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission vice chair Lilian Mahiri-Zaja, Vice CEO Betty Suguna, Chairman Isaac Hassan and CEO Ezra Chiloba launch election operation plan 2015-2017 at Intercontinental hotel in Nairobi on January 14, 2016. Kenya’s peace, stability, and democracy need an IEBC that is credible, efficient and competent. PHOTO | JAMES EKWAM |

From left: Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission vice chair Lilian Mahiri-Zaja, Vice CEO Betty Suguna, Chairman Isaac Hassan and CEO Ezra Chiloba launch election operation plan 2015-2017 at Intercontinental hotel in Nairobi on January 14, 2016. Kenya’s peace, stability, and democracy need an IEBC that is credible, efficient and competent. PHOTO | JAMES EKWAM | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By MAINA KIAI
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It has been clear since 2013 that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is one of the most significant threats to our stability and democracy, come 2017.

It has had three years to remedy the deliberate weaknesses and incompetencies, but to date, apart from hiring a new chief executive, not much has changed.

In fact, its credibility and integrity has become worse with the “chicken-gate” bribery scandal that implicated some of the commissioners, including the chairman, in a British court.

After lots of pressure, some of them are now being paraded at the EACC - now styled the “East African Clearing Commission” - and are coming out smiling, claiming to be witnesses, Ann Waiguru style.

The fact the chairman continues to hold office after his on-the-record declaration of bias against one of the candidates in the election is baffling.

It is unimportant which candidate the chairman is biased against, but the fact that he could so boldly declare his partisanship in open court, makes him patently unsuitable to hold public office.

Make no mistake: Kenya’s peace, stability, and democracy need an IEBC that is credible, efficient and competent.

It need not be perfect, but it needs to be credible enough that we can live with its mistakes without opting for less than peaceful ways of venting our frustrations.

IEBC CONFIDENCE RATING

Today, most polls regularly attribute a blow 30 percent confidence rating on the IEBC, which the regime - and eager donors - should take seriously if they are not to be blamed for the chaos, repression and violence that may arise.

This is not a call to violence or conflict. Rather, it is a plea to avoid the triggers to violence and conflict that we know so well from our recent past.

The recent by-elections in Kericho and Malindi were an opportunity for the IEBC to showcase its learning’s since 2013. But, sadly, the same issues re-surfaced.

Lots of voters could not find their names on the register; the BVR and EVID kits did not work; public resources were used openly; and buying of voters was conducted openly, and only challenged when political heavyweights intervened.

There were incredibly many “assisted” voters even for people who clearly recently benefited from free primary education!

In 2013, the IEBC was willfully incompetent and it was only on voting day that the reasons for this become clear.

If the consequences of their actions were purely visited on the IEBC, this would a lesser problem.

But it is ordinary Kenyans who will suffer if they don’t restore credibility in the institution.

We don’t have to look far to see the impact of illegitimacy following elections.

NEIGHBOURING EXAMPLES

Burundi staggers on a day-to-day basis, with a persistent threat of violence.

Investment, aid and trade have dried up and hundreds of thousands have fled.

Pierre Nkurunziza has managed to stay in power, but he now presides over a shell of a country that is tense, frustrated and unstable.

It will take decades to undo the damage that he has caused.

And then there is Uganda, where the regime’s tactics to retain power go beyond the pale.

Dr Kizza Besigye, the main opposition leader, has been under illegal house arrest, preventing him from meeting his lawyers to file a court challenge!

His party’s offices were raided and important documents stolen.

Somehow, the other opposition leader Amama Mbabazi managed to file a court challenge, but subsequently his lawyers’ offices were raided and documents stolen. Only a fool would see this as coincidence!

The Ugandan elections body was so openly biased against the opposition that it begs the question why elections were held in the first place!

And now peaceful means of challenging the process and results are being obstructed.

It may not happen this week, this month or even this year, but sure as day follows night, the frustrations of Ugandans will boil over, triggered by something that we can’t possibly tell today.

But certainly today Uganda is less stable than it was a year ago.

It is a less attractive place to invest in, and despite its near indispensability to Western powers on issues of counter-terrorism and security, its trajectory is not to be envied.

With Tanzania rising, we have way more to lose if we follow the Burundian or Ugandan election approaches.

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