We have problems and shooting the messenger won’t solve them

Tuesday March 29 2016

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Issack Hassan.  Cord leaders feel that the IEBC cannot be trusted to competently manage the polls. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Issack Hassan. Cord leaders feel that the IEBC cannot be trusted to competently manage the polls. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

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I should have woken up on Saturday to the cool mountain air, the rustling of the leaves, chirping of the birds and the mooing of the cows.

Instead, my Easter reverie was rudely interrupted by the #ArrestNdii hashtag that was noisily trending all over Twitter.

So what crime had the sometimes controversial Saturday Nation economic policy analyst David Ndii committed? Whose goat had he eaten?

Whom had he killed? What genocide had he incited? What ethnic flare-up had he stirred? How much in public funds had he looted?
None of the above. In fact, he had committed absolutely no crime known in Kenyan law.

Dr Ndii had merely expressed views that were anathema to the typical Jubilee coalition supporter, for whom independent thought must be treasonable.

I do not know who started that particular hashtag, but it reflected the usual knee-jerk reaction from Jubilee jingoists who have never read and understood the Constitution of Kenya and treat every viewpoint contrary to the official line as a heresy that must be punished, even if by criminal extra-judicial means.

Dr Ndii’s reke tumanwo (let us part ways) piece was sure to be objectionable.

The proposal that Kenya split up into ethnic components since it had failed to become a unitary nation was provocative and bound to generate a great deal of angst.

So was the prediction that Kenya risked yet another violent conflagration come 2017 should President Uhuru Kenyatta be again declared the winner of a sham election.

Dr Ndii set out to provoke and incite, and he certainly succeeded. But this must be viewed in terms of provoking debate and inciting thought rather than ethnic and political conflict.

The plain fact is that Kenya could be heading towards a precipice if urgent steps are not taken ahead of the next elections to repair a fractured and divided society.

This country could be setting itself up for another round of post-election violence unless the broken and dysfunctional institutions vital to a well-managed, free and fair election are first fixed.


A democracy is only as good as how competently and fairly it manages elections and adjudicates any disputes that may arise.

Right now we have an Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission that almost nobody trusts to be a competent and unbiased referee.

This is not about the almost ritualistic early warnings from opposition leader Raila Odinga’s band of supporters that any poll not favourable to them will be rejected.

It is about a polls body that has in successive general elections been unable to deliver an election that even the losers have no option but to concede defeat.

It is about a blundering institution in which a bloated commission has usurped the role of a professional secretariat and assumed duties and functions best left to those with the requisite management and professional training and skills.

The result has been criminal incompetence that ultimately has compromised the outcome of the elections.

Incidentally, both Mr Odinga’s Cord and President Kenyatta Jubilee brigades agree that the IEBC cannot be trusted to competently manage the polls. The only disagreement is on what should be done to either reform or reconstitute the electoral body to ensure a competent and neutral arbiter.

Then there is the issue of a broken political culture built on ethnic hatred rather than policies, programmes and ideologies.

The fact of the matter is that we invest our hopes in ethnic warlords rather than in national leaders.

Neither President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, nor Cord leaders Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, and Moses Wetang’ula are national leaders and patriots.

They are simply leaders of ethnic political formations who thrive on mobilising their communities and groupings against others.

They play up the ethnically divisive “tyranny of numbers” and “41 versus 1” stratagems and thereby prime their supporters to hate and demonise other Kenyans as enemies to be isolated and neutralised.

Now, when somebody points out the dangers we face approaching the elections under such a dangerous culture, some idiots call for his arrest.

[email protected] Twitter: @MachariaGaitho