We don’t need UN in repeat poll, let’s try homegrown supervision

Monday September 4 2017

 Chebukati said they would do some internal changes within IEBC.

Administration police officers bring ballot boxes to Kitui High School tallying centre on August 9, 2017. Chebukati said they would do some internal changes within IEBC. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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With the courageous nullification of the August 8 presidential election by the Supreme Court, the searchlight now falls on the electoral body.

The question in the minds of keen observers is whether the same Wafula Chebukati-led Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that conducted the nullified election could deliver a credible, free, fair and transparent re-run poll whose outcome would be unquestionably acceptable to the candidates.

What would IEBC do differently to redeem its damaged integrity and distrusted neutrality?

The question is simple but the answer evokes a complexity of issues.

The constitutional timeline of 60 days for the re-run will make it a marathon for IEBC to put itself together and have the material and human resources ready for the re-run.

Nasa, the petitioner, has already called for the removal and prosecution of some IEBC commissioners and officers for alleged electoral offences.

While the Opposition has grounds for such calls, the period is too short a time for an overhaul.

Caution must, therefore, be exercised on this lest the country lands in a constitutional crisis. 

And then there was a brilliant suggestion that the United Nations conduct the re-run.

Note that the Constitution does not recognise, entrust or mandate a foreign entity with such a crucial national engagement.

And even if a quick and temporary concession of Parliament on emergency grounds made such a provision, how sure are we that the UN would be impartial and that the outcome would be acceptable to all competitors?

At a press conference shortly after the nullification of the presidential election on September 1, Chebukati said they would do some internal changes within IEBC, even as he called on the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko to investigate the matter with a view of bringing the culprits to book.

But would the said changes and housekeeping reposition IEBC to deliver a credible, acceptable outcome? 

Actually, even if the rotten eggs were removed, aggrieved parties of the re-run would still question the outcome; they would premise their rejection on the ‘shambolic and muddled’ nullified August 8 election.

Internal changes alone would, therefore, not save IEBC from the messy situation it is in.

What is the best way out of the woods, then?

Interestingly, every consideration so far ends with a question mark.

This is an indication of the tight corner Kenyans find themselves in.

As often alluded to, election is not a single activity but a series of activities in an ordered process.

If it is transparent, the outcome would be unquestionably acceptable to all parties irrespective of the individuals on the commission.

Now, suppose IEBC took the court order seriously and conducted the re-run in strict adherence to the Constitution and other related electoral laws?

Kenya would safely and smoothly take off. And it would not cost IEBC a extra shilling to do the right and proper thing.

I had suggested that another election be called and IEBC seriously charged to follow the constitutional script.

If IEBC agrees to this, we will have taken a good step forward.

Given that IEBC is today clothed in glaring mistrust, the re-run cannot be solely left to it as suspicion would taint whatever comes out of the commission — no matter how transparent the process — without close supervision. 

The cure? A supervised IEBC is best-placed to conduct the re-run.

However, the supervisor should not be the UN or international observers.

All candidates would have agents at all polling stations, who would be given copies of official Forms 34A (with all security features) signed by all.

IEBC and all candidates would then separately add up the figures, based on the Forms 34A, and the totals correlated.

Obviously, the winner in such an open process would be acceptable to all parties and losers would happily concede.

Fr Livinus Onogwu is a Catholic priest based in Mombasa. [email protected]