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Before you consider a referendum, fix IEBC

Monday August 12 2019

EDITORIAL
By EDITORIAL
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Two years have elapsed since Kenyans went for the General Election whose outcomes nearly precipitated turmoil.

The country has since returned to normalcy and the deep seated political acrimony subsided.

Indeed, the handshake between the erstwhile political rivals President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga in March last year diametrically changed the equation and ushered an era of cooperation and camaraderie.

But there is a festering problem that is yet to be resolved. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) which bungled the elections, a fact proclaimed by the Supreme Court, has not been fixed and it seems the public has moved on and forgot about it.

If it failed then when it had a semblance of structure, it is worse off today when it is a shell.

For more than a year, the commission has operated with only three commissioners, no substantive chief executive and a thoroughly demoralised and nearly dysfunctional secretariat.

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Attempts to recruit a new chief executive have run into headwinds.

KEY AGENCY

We are calling attention to the IEBC because its stability holds the future to the country’s leadership.

Since the first multiparty election in Kenya in 1992, and with the exception of 2002 when Kanu was vanquished, every electoral cycle has been traumatic. In 2007, the country nearly burnt to ashes following chaotic polls.

Election outcomes have been bitterly contested because of pervading belief they are manipulated and hardly represent the will of the people.

Which is the reason retired South African Judge Johann Kriegler, who chaired the Independent Review Commission in 2008, warned that unless Kenya fixes its electoral process, what happened in 2007/8 may turn out to be a child’s play in future.

The warning strikes an eerie chord and requires constant reflection.

PREPAREDNESS

Kenya is nearly midpoint to the next election but without tackling the inherent defects at IEBC.

The tragedy is that we wait until it is too late and because of the hurry to get into elections, craft some stopgap measures just to go through the process but in the end, foment more problems and create even a deeper crisis.

At this particular point in time, there is a push for a referendum to change the Constitution.

The Ekuru Aukot-led Punguza Mizigo initiative is pushing the country towards a referendum.

Similarly, presentations to the Building Bridges Initiative are steering us towards the same. But as currently constituted, IEBC cannot hold a legitimate referendum.

But the fundamental point is that we are inching towards another election in 2022 without a proper electoral agency.

This is why we are calling for reorganisation and refreshing IEBC to create an entity that can be trusted to manage elections, not the shell we have today.

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