Let's be honest - the IEBC's troubles are not new

Friday October 20 2017

By LUIS FRANCESCHI
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The rule of law is not a rigid ruler. When the rulers we use for measuring bend, they break, sometimes violently.

The rule of law is like a clothes line in a laundry yard. It is kept straight by the tension of fairness, integrity and ultimately, truth.

This rope holds us together. We hang our linen on it; those are our rights. They bind us together and we are a nation.

A laundry clothesline is designed to carry the weight of clothes, not of people. Many people may remember (I certainly do) those childish games that entailed hanging from a clothesline rope.

It would always collapse, and it seemed fun until we were caught. We laughed heartily, then panicked, picked up the items and tried, often unsuccessfully, to tense up the rope again.

Tension is necessary, otherwise the rope would not serve its intended purpose. Equally, our current tension is good. It is a sign that we are together and that we give importance to whatever is happening.

So tension is not the problem. The problem comes when we hang from the rope till it breaks. This is a betrayal of citizenship and of love for the country, for we are hanging from the laundry line in order to make it snap.

WINNERS AT ALL TIMES

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is under siege. Chairman Wafula Chebukati’s astounding resilience in the face of brutal criticism is exemplary. Roselyne Akombe’s resignation is painful and the violent attacks on IEBC staff are unforgivable.   

Yet, IEBC’s woes are not new. Isaak Hassan and the late Samuel Kivuitu went through them. The problem is not the law, political affiliations or even ethnic tensions.

The problem is the lack of citizenship, the lack of love for the country, the betrayal of patriotism. Too many people in government and in opposition want to hang from the clothesline till it breaks.  We manipulate the law and the people to satisfy political ambitions.

The electoral commission will never be a functional body. Nobody has ever been good enough for it, and nobody will, because we do not want them to be.

We instigate cheating and we blame them for not catching us. We only want them to declare us winners, at all times, at any cost and under any circumstances. This attitude is legitimising anarchy and slowly entrenching tyranny.

I have no right to attack election officials or anybody who may freely want to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Equally, I have no right to oblige anybody to vote against their free will.

RATIONAL ANIMALS

Attacking polling officials, putting their lives at risk when they are exercising their constitutional duty, attacking police stations, the Judiciary, insulting the President, the opposition or people of any ethnic community is sheer lack of citizenship.

The police cannot abuse citizens and citizens cannot abuse the police. The police have no right to shoot without due cause and we have the duty to respect officers and obey their reasonable commands.

I have no right to throw stones no matter how annoyed I may be; I have no right to damage anyone’s property, to burn shops or clinics and assault supermarkets.    

Citizenship, love for the country is what prevents that little animal we all carry inside from being unleashed. Citizenship means respect, and restraint out of love.

Restraint is a characteristic of rational animals, who place reason above passions. It is what distinguishes humans from any other animal. Yet a rational person may become the most brutal beast when reason is set aside.

We have set reason and citizenship aside and our crisis is no longer legal or political, but one of citizenship and humanity.

We are moved by our passions, the smell of money, blood and power. We have begun treating anyone who thinks differently like a beast. Virtual mob justice is happening every day.

It is as if the only virtue were power and holding it, for in Kenya, power leads to riches.

DEEP, DARK WATERS

There is no longer virtue in being an elder, a retired politician, president, minister, official, or a retired lawyer or doctor.

Impunity has sadly trickled down from grand theft to the grassroots, to the point that stoning policemen and shooting protesters have become a ‘reasonable’ response for both sides.

Mashujaa Day was instituted to celebrate not only our fallen freedom fighters but also all those who have quietly and heroically served our country, all those mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and elders who have given their lives for a better Kenya.

We must wake up from this nightmare. We are navigating the deep and dark waters of political ambition and power games which have turned into hunger games; to win you must kill, politically.

In September 2012, Laura Guibert and Gabriel Perez-Quiros made a serious attempt to measure the economic cost of the 2007/08 Post-Election Violence in Kenya.

In this study, Guibert and Quiros came up with a graph that showed two curves. The real Kenya (what really happened to the economy of Kenya due to the election violence) and a Synthetic Kenya (what would have happened if there had not been violence).

According to the authors, synthetic Kenya is a convex combination of different countries which resembled Kenya’s economic characteristics before the post-election violence of 2007.

'NOT THE SOLUTION'

To produce the situation in synthetic Kenya (what did not happen but could have happened if we had had a peaceful election) the authors used a combination of Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia plus other states whose values did not impact the situation noticeably.

The fact is that in 2007-2011, Kenya’s per capita GDP was reduced by an average of US$86 per year, amounting to approximately 6 per cent of the 2007 baseline level.

In 2010, per capita GDP in the actual Kenya was estimated to be about 8 per cent lower than in its synthetic counterpart. The graphic shows the following:

Violence is not the solution. It actually destroys citizenship. Lack of citizenship engenders hatred, which is like an animal that eats those who feed them.

Dr Franceschi is the dean of Strathmore Law School. [email protected]; Twitter: @lgfranceschi