IEBC: Leaders must talk to resolve crisis

Thursday October 19 2017

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Electoral commission chairman Wafula Chebukati’s candid exposition of the sad status of affairs at the agency gives some compelling reasons for serious reflections on the fresh presidential poll slated for next week.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is beset by numerous challenges — administrative, legal, technical, and political.

Whereas most of these are within the purview of the IEBC itself and can be managed reasonably quickly, the political one is well beyond the province of the agency, and yet it has the greatest impact.

Politicians have infiltrated the commission and held the secretariat staff and the commissioners hostage.

Decisions are made based on the political interests of the external players, terribly undermining the professional performance of the commission.


Politicians from both the government and the opposition have turned the IEBC into a punching bag.

They routinely attack, threaten and malign election officials with the express goal of forcing them to kowtow to their sinister designs.

It is not lost on fellow citizens that when she resigned, commissioner Roselyn Akombe categorically stated that the commission is divided right down the middle.

Commissioners and staff, she added, are living under threat and that the agency is not fully prepared for the election. Opinions may differ on this, but it is an indicator, nonetheless that things are not looking rosy.

Precisely, this is the reason Mr Chebukati first directed the politicians to keep off the IEBC, and two, called President Uhuru Kenyatta and National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga for an urgent meeting to resolve the stand-off.


The biggest problem is that the two leaders are driven by strong egos and egged on by stubborn cheer-leaders hellbent on brinkmanship.

We concur with the chairman, as he rightly put the blame where it belongs. It is about politicians engaging in reckless activities that stand to undermine the elections and render the outcome unacceptable.

Yet given the delicate political environment and fear of an implosion, it makes a lot of sense for the two leaders to agree to a joint meeting to thrash out some contentious matters.

It is never a show of weakness or failure for a leader to humble himself or herself and talk with an opponent.

The stability and future of the nation depends on the leaders. The issues under contention are not beyond their capability to resolve.

So it defeats reason that they cannot meet to discuss and resolve them. It would be a mark of maturity, patriotism and selflessness for them to do so.


But politics has lately taken an even more worrying dimension. In some counties, residents have taken to disrupting trainings for election officials and threatening to attack them should they go ahead to administer the presidential election next week.

Not only is this criminal, but it sets a dangerous precedent that is likely to destabilise elections now and in future.

It also poses a grave security threat, entrenches a culture of lawlessness and is bound to be a serious disenfranchisement of citizens keen on casting their ballots.


Those driving this nefarious campaign must be stopped in their tracks.

Even so, Mr Chebukati cannot run away from the fact that he must tackle the administrative and operational challenges at the commission.

The responsibility to deliver a credible election rests with him; he must live up to his oath of office.

It is not too late to redeem the situation, though. President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga must just agree to meet and talk and unlock the impasse that threatens the forthcoming election and the country’s stability.