It is our civic duty to be critical of IEBC's performance

Friday February 24 2017

Wafula Chebukati (left), the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, with the body's chief executive officer Ezra Chiloba. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Wafula Chebukati (left), the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, with the body's chief executive officer Ezra Chiloba. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By GODWIN MURUNGA
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There are a number of people and institutions that get worried when we criticise the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. I hope the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is not among these institutions. Indeed, I hope that no one within the IEBC sulks because of the immense criticism levelled against its performance.

There are six points I want to share with the IEBC. First, the criticism so far levelled against its performance is nothing compared to what awaits them. Though the commission has performed its duties under difficult, uncertain and, at times, very testy circumstances, there is much more Kenyans expect of them as we enter the homestretch of this electoral cycle.

Second, the criticism is not simply for its own sake. We are critical in order to extract the best out of the commission. The commission is obviously aware that previous elections have been marred by allegations of rigging. Some of the allegations are legitimated by a lack of transparency on the part of the commission. We cannot afford another opaque electoral process where legitimate concerns among citizens and voters are dismissed with the arrogance we had come to associate with the immediate former chairman of the commission.

SURE WAY

Three, where we find their performance to be exemplary in terms of transparency, we will definitely cite this as a sure way to a free, fair and credible elections. We must reiterate that the desire for peace following the election in August is given. This desire among Kenyans is given irrespective of what politicians say or journalists report. Politicians hovering around preaching peace will not win the peace. Journalists eager to kill the news in favour of keeping peace will also not ensure peace. Peace is guaranteed if credible elections are conducted and the winner announced.

Four, we understand that the commission is constituted by individuals. Being human, it is expected that mistakes will occur. We also recognise that given the intensity of the campaigns, such mistakes might happen due largely to the intensity of a process that started late and whose schedule has been repeatedly undermined, first, by the eviction of the immediate former commissioners and more recently by legitimate court action by concerned voters. We, therefore, assure the IEBC that we recognise the possibility of a certain threshold of error. But we expect that such a threshold must not be exceeded nor should it become the excuse for not delivering a credible outcome.

EXPECT ACTION

Five, given the above, we will expect action, not just press conferences, around a certain number of things that remain a cause for worry. Some of these have become very apparent during the voter registration exercise. For a start, we know that we have a dirty voter register that needs immense cleaning. It is not enough to acknowledge that a particular identification (ID) card number was used to register multiple voters. We expect action against whoever did this. Not only is the person who used one ID card to register multiple voters guilty of abusing the law, the registration stations involved had clerks and they must explain how this was possible. If such an exercise took place in one registration centre, the clerks remain complicit in this abuse of the law until they demonstrate their innocence.

Six, we know that the commission works with other institutions in delivering on their electoral mandate. Some of these institutions might be responsible for acts that undermine the capacity of the commission to ensure credible elections. Where this happens, the IEBC must be candid with Kenyans by naming the institutions responsible.

The example of the last General Election in Nigeria is instructive. The security agencies under the former President showed their hand in attempting to bias the polls. The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission decided to be candid with Nigerians to the point of postponing the elections due to security concerns. We, too, expect the IEBC to be candid and transparent with us.

Godwin R. Murunga teaches at the University of Nairobi.