The dust may be settling on the 2017 elections but for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) it is the beginning of a tumultuous period ahead after the divisive presidential polls.
The annulment of the August 8 presidential election by the Supreme Court, the infighting exacerbated by leaked internal documents and partisanship among staff have left the commission clutching at straws to regain public trust.
We-the-People, a civil society alliance in an October 31 statement after the acrimonious fresh presidential election which was boycotted by the opposition, National Super Alliance (Nasa) was unforgiving in its assessment of IEBC which it described as “a completely discredited electoral management body.”
“Rather than using the historic Supreme Court judgment to reform and raise electoral standards, the five-year cycle of electoral instability has been further entrenched. This is horribly costly in ways the nation cannot afford and continues to create uncertainty and fear. The country needs to draw a line on this and raise the bar for elections once and for all,” the alliance said.
For the commission and individual staff members, the post-election period would be a time for introspection and correcting mistakes that led to the annulment of the presidential election which could include personnel changes as the chairman Wafula Chebukati had pledged.
But from the events pre, during and post election, there is little doubt that IEBC will be walking a tricky and narrow path to salvage its reputation.
In his statement on the eve of the fresh presidential election, Mr Chebukati had hinted at an uncertain future for the commission.
“Today is a reality. Tomorrow is a promise. We have decided that reality must take pre-eminence over promise. If we take care of the realities, the promise will take care of itself,” he said.
The current commission has been one of the most expensive with the August 8 General Election costing nearly Sh50 billion while the repeat presidential election received an allocation of Sh12 billion.
Despite the substantial allocations, the commission has failed to return the favour to the taxpayers as commissioners and secretariat staff are extremely partisan and timid to independently execute their mandate.
Following her resignation as a commissioner in the run up to the repeat presidential election Dr Roselyn Akombe accused the chairman of not being firm. Dr Akombe had resigned citing threats to her life, political infiltration at IEBC and a secretariat that was openly undermining the commission.
A day after Dr Akombe’s resignation, Mr Chebukati came out to confirm her claims of a divided and partisan the commission.
Mr Chebukati had indicated that a majority of the commissioners were pushing partisan interests that “are not grounded in the Constitution.”
Within the commission, some staff at the secretariat are considering their continued stay at IEBC fearing that it is just a matter of time before a large-scale overhaul is done however politicised that exercise would be.
Those who spoke to Sunday Nation point to Tuesday’s statement by the General Secretary of National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) Rev Canon Peter Karanja in which he called for an amendment to the Constitution to create the positions of Prime Minister and two deputies, as well as restoration of the position of Leader of the Official Opposition.
“NCCK was speaking for somebody and that somebody is subtly seeking national dialogue because you cannot amend the Constitution without broad-based consultations. When the time comes for such dialogue, the electoral management body will be the sacrificial lamb. We have seen it before with the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya and the IEBC commission led by Issack Hassan,” a member of the secretariat said.
ECK was disbanded after the contested 2007 presidential election while the first group of IEBC commissioners were forced out of office with just seven months to the August 8 General Election following the contested 2013 election and the plummeting public confidence on their ability to oversee another election.
With the repeat presidential election now behind us, Dutch member of the European Union (EU) Parliament Marietje Schaake who headed the EU Election Observation Mission to Kenya notes that for IEBC to regain public trust, all stakeholders must be involved, further amplifying the calls for dialogue.
“We have always emphasised the importance of IEBC to engage all stakeholders and to communicate clearly. We have assessed technical reforms undertaken so far and we will make in depth recommendations to increasing the integrity of future elections.
“Rebuilding trust throughout Kenyan society is a matter of political leadership and of involvement of all Kenyans,” said Ms Schaake.
As well as the fear for their jobs, the abduction and murder of IEBC ICT manager Chris Msando a week to August 8 General Election which remains unresolved three months later is still fresh in the minds of the staff adding to their fears.
Meanwhile, the investigations that were ordered by the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko seem to have hit a brick wall with no substantial outcome from it.
Though the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) had 21 days from September 23 to complete their investigations as ordered by Mr Tobiko, the public is yet to know the outcome of the same.
Before the October 26 repeat election, Nasa had been calling for a national dialogue with the aim of reforming IEBC following the frailties that contributed to the annulment of the August 8 presidential election.
As part of the reforms, Nasa was also demanding an overhaul of the commission and those found to have perpetrated the illegalities and irregularities that led to the annulment of the presidential election to face the law.
Those in Nasa’s radar have been commissioner Prof Abdi Guliye, chief executive Ezra Chiloba, deputy chief executives Betty Nyabuto (in charge of operations) and Marjan Hussein (in charge of support), directors Immaculate Kassait (voter registration and electoral operations), James Muhati (ICT) and Praxedes Tororey (legal and public affairs), manager and adviser to the chief executive Moses Kipkogei, ICT co-ordinator Paul Mugo and ICT officer Boniface Wamae.
However, this was rebuffed with IEBC telling Nasa that “there were no officers found to have been complicit in processing results and displaying figures that were not results.”
“Further, as observed in the Supreme Court of Kenya judgment, there was no evidence adduced to prove the commission of any election offence by the commission officials,” IEBC added.
Eventually, with days to the repeat presidential election, it was announced that Mr Chiloba would proceed on a three week leave.
The deal had been struck by US Ambassador Robert Godec as he worked behind the scenes to convince Nasa to rescind their withdrawal from the fresh presidential election, but which the opposition rejected.
Leader of Majority in the Senate Kipchumba Murkomen in an attack directed at Nasa leader Raila Odinga, blames the opposition for the situation IEBC currently finds itself.
“IEBC is not the problem. If a man has had a go at the presidency four times and always blaming the IEBC, it is time he blames himself,” said Mr Murkomen.
All said, however, the commission is starting the journey towards the next election with an approval rating so low and its systems still under the firm grip of external forces who would want to control every imaginable thing IEBC does.