IEBC, Judiciary must win public confidence

Saturday March 26 2016

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The next General Election may be more than a year away, but the spotlight is already on two key institutions that will play a key role in the entire process.

The first is the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), whose duty and obligation is to organise, supervise the poll and announce results. Then there is the Supreme Court which arbitrates in the event of a dispute in the presidential result. The growing lack of public confidence in these two public institutions is, therefore, worrying.

For the IEBC, this has not been a particularly good year, with allegations of mega corruption at home and overseas. And it does not matter that it is not the current electoral commission whose officials were reportedly bribed by a British printing company.

The English officials involved in what has since come to be known as ‘Chickengate’ were speedily tried, convicted and are now serving time in UK jails. But the Kenyan electoral officials they bribed are still walking free, the damning accusations notwithstanding.

Also on the spot over corruption is the Judiciary, with bribery allegations against a top judge. But, perhaps, the most immediate challenge is the Chief Justice Willy Mutunga succession. Dr Mutunga has opted to leave earlier, and the process of choosing his successor will be another tough challenge for the nation.

And, with the Deputy Chief Justice also out, fighting against retirement, the Judiciary could be left rudderless.

The opposition is demanding an overhaul of the electoral commission or they will boycott the next elections. The IEBC, which has tried to put up a brave face, must realise that without the opposition, the electoral process would be robbed of the legitimacy it needs.

The IEBC commissioners and the Executive must climb down the high horse and engage in discussions with the opposition. Matters have not been helped by the IEBC’s recent rejection of the Cord-fronted Okoa Kenya referendum bid, alleging that the sponsors failed to collect the one million signatures required to force a referendum.

Both IEBC and Judiciary must work hard to win back public trust ahead of the elections. Time is of essence here. Given our history of election violence, going to the polls next year with a perception that the referee, IEBC, is biased and corrupt and that the arbiter, the Supreme Court, can be compromised, is a recipe for disaster.