Smarting from a disputed presidential election eventually won by Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta last October, the electoral commission has embarked on post-poll assessment it hopes will help salvage its tattered image in the eyes of the public.
In a statement to the Nation, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) says the process will run for five months.
“The report (on the conduct of elections), which we will make public, will hopefully help bring clarity to some of the issues that we may not have had the opportunity to clarify on and therefore unfortunately contributed to a poor people’s trust in the institution,” it said.
“We have planned nine clusters of country workshops that will bring together all stakeholders, key among them political parties. Each cluster will give a report to the national workshop in May 2018. There is a technical working committee and it will entail focus group discussions,” the statement said.
IEBC argues that this undertaking is in keeping with the fact that elections are continuous processes.
With a number of regions and communities in the country demanding additional wards and constituencies, especially the Kuria people who are agitating for their own county, IEBC will equally be laying ground for delimitation of boundaries.
“The boundaries review follows an 8-12 year cycle as per Article 89 of the Constitution. The commission plans to start in 2018. It has been engaging stakeholders in a bid to resolve issues arising from the 2010-2012 review of boundaries,” the commission said adding, “We will engage the public at constituency and ward levels to create awareness and better understanding on boundary delimitation.”
It acknowledges that delimitation is an emotive issue that has caused strife and conflicts before and that they are keen to ensure it does not polarise communities.
Section two of the Article stipulates that any such review shall be completed at least 12 months before the election of Members of Parliament.
At the same time, attention will be on senior secretariat officials led by Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba and the director of voter registration Immaculate Kassait, who returned from forced leave on January 3.
Their staying away was prompted by the opposition Nasa’s demand that they resign as one of the conditions to take part in the repeat presidential contest following the voiding of the August poll by the courts. They will be part of the review.
The secretariat was accused of doing Jubilee’s bidding and, at some point, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati publicly lamented they were working in cahoots with renegade commissioners to sabotage poll preparations.
“The toxic” secretariat forced Mr Chebukati to create a Project Team comprising a new set of directors which oversaw the October 26 polls.
In so doing, he was hoping to dissuade Nasa candidate Raila Odinga from boycotting the repeat poll, although it never worked as the opposition alliance withdrew its ticket protesting at what it termed “a commission which will stop at nothing to hand Mr Kenyatta a second term in office.”
The review will look at the General Election process but with specific reference to legal, voter registration, voter education, electoral technology, costs, financing, procurement and communication.
“The Commission is keen to understand the effectiveness of its operations and the voter experience. What worked well and what could have been done better. It will be incisive, candid and rigorous,” the statement said.
After hogging the limelight almost daily for the last half of 2017, commissioners have assumed a low profile, declining media interviews, with Mr Chebukati at one point telling this publication that he didn’t want to spoil the festive season by talking matters elections.
His fear was founded on the resultant backlash on the Supreme Court decision to annul Mr Kenyatta’s win on August 8 with majority judges indicting the IEBC for failure to follow electoral laws when presiding over the “watershed election.”
Commissioners and senior staff members are in agreement that it will require a lot of effort and deliberate campaign to regain public confidence after the August and October experiences which were preceded by the murder of ICT manager Chris Msando about a week to the first polls.
“2018 will be the year of institutional transformation and building our image. There will also be more efforts to improve voter experience. The commission has suffered extensively on public perception, rightly or wrongly, and the resolve for rejuvenation cannot be stretched further,” communications manager Andrew Limo said.
Crime experts are persuaded that Mr Msando’s murder had everything to do with the polls owing to what they say was “his reluctance to play ball.”
The dramatic resignation of Commissioner Roselyn Akombe, a vocal official who together with Mr Chebukati and Commissioner Margaret Mwachanya found themselves in the same camp against the other four commissioners, further diluted the trust Kenyans had in the polls team at a time a number of officials expressed concern over their security and family. The other commissioners are Consolata Maina (the vice-chairperson), Boya Molu, Paul Kurgat and Abdi Guliye.
Dr Akombe, a UN staffer, announced her resignation from the United States. She had initially left the country to inspect the printing of ballot papers in Dubai before diverting to the US.
And in a country where there is little faith in institutions, rightly so often times, it would take a miracle for the same IEBC’s top officials to run the next General Election.
Save for the Issack Hassan led interim commission that oversaw the referendum on the Constitution in 2010 and the 2013 polls, no such teams have run two elections in succession in recent times.
Perhaps aware of such reality, Mr Chiloba is already planning to quit before the next General Election.
“Whilst I love challenges, the only thing I don’t like is doing the same thing over and over again. I avoid monotony. This was an unparalleled experience and I am glad so far, all the efforts invested in the last two-and-a- half years, have gotten us to where we are. Would I do this again? I think that’s gone. It’s passed,” he told Business Daily in mid-August.
With the winner-take-it-all model where the runners-up in the presidential election go home empty handed, yet spent billions of shillings on the campaign trail, IEBC officials will always find themselves in the crossfire with candidates seeking to influence them either through intimidation or bribery.