It’s systems and processes that guarantee a free and fair poll

Monday July 17 2017

The Ministry of Health and the Nairobi County Health Department

Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu addressing delegates during a high level forum held at a hotel in Nairobi on April 24, 2017. The Ministry of Health and the Nairobi County Health Department were lax in containing the cholera outbreak. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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When the opposition mounted its successful push for the removal of the team of electoral commissioners led by chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan, they did not bother too much about who would succeed the ousted bunch.

Despite some misgivings, Mr Raila Odinga and other opposition leaders accepted the appointment of chairman Wafula Chebukati and the new team.

The principle was that what mattered was not the individuals at the helm, but the systems and procedures that guarantee a free, fair and credible election.


It is by the same token we would venture that what matters is not who prints the ballot papers, but the systems and procedures to ensure there is no chicanery.

Now, I don’t for a moment doubt that the National Super Alliance had very legitimate grounds to contest the suspect process by which the IEBC gave the ballot paper printing tender to Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing of Dubai.

Any process that by-passes the established procurement machinery must raise the red flag.

If cancellation of the tender at this late stage would have the unacceptable effect of delaying the General Election set for August 8, perhaps a better solution would be installation of additional safeguards against election rigging.

There is the presumption that a printer contracted in suspicious circumstances and seen to have suspicious links with election players might print extra ballot papers for the purpose of rigging.

However, rigging in the digital age does not involve extra ballot papers.

Where it is old-fashioned ballot stuffing, it is usually about the votes of those who did not turn up somehow finding their way into the count.

This would also include the 1.5 million or so dead voters known to be still on the register.

Experience also shows that most election rigging in Kenya happens during the transmission and tallying of votes, and not the actual voting and counting of the ballots.

It is decidedly odd that Nasa is raising such a rumpus about the printer, but had no problem with the electronic voter identification and results transmission systems that were similarly single-sourced.

In my mind, it does not really matter whether the ballot papers are printed by Al Githurai Printers, Ramogi Press, Muiguithania Publishers or Grogan Road Merchants.

It’s the systems and processes that matter.
If it had to take the delicate stomachs of two Cabinet secretaries to force public acknowledgement that cholera is rampaging through the capital city, well and good.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and his Industrialisation colleague, Adan Mohammed, may now stand as living proof that the disease of the poor has crossed the class barrier, but the authorities now hastily setting up cholera task forces must themselves be held to account for dereliction of duty.

Cholera did not start hitting the affluent in their salubrious surroundings just this past weekend.

Well before the two Cabinet secretaries were hospitalised with what the media carefully described as “symptoms resembling cholera”, there was a high-society wedding in the up-market Karen suburb where a good number of guests suffered explosive ejection of whatever they had consumed.


That was in mid-May. Then came the incident at Nairobi’s Weston Hotel just over a month later, where the cuisine on offer did not agree with the stomachs of doctors at a convention.

In both cases, the Ministry of Health and the Nairobi County Health Department preferred to sweep the poo under the carpet.

In the Weston Hotel case, no less than the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Dr Cleopa Mailu, seemed to be directing the cover-up.

Perhaps his priority was not the health of the Nairobi residents, but political loyalties that dictated he move to save the hotel owner, Deputy President William Ruto, any embarrassment.

That would not be surprising of a fellow who during the debilitating strike by medical doctors, gave priority to playing the role of Jubilee Party campaign emissary to his ethnic homeland.

The outcome of the denial and cover-up meant that nothing was done to contain the cholera menace, and it continued to spread unchecked until it hit Mr Mailu’s Cabinet colleagues.

Mr Rotich and Mr Mohammed should know to whom they should pass their hospital bills, as should the hundreds of other people who have undergone the indignity of a scourge that belongs to the last century.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @MachariaGaitho