The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has made a significant announcement but which did not receive the deserved attention. Next month, it will start reviewing boundaries with a view to delineating and reorganising them.
Boundary review is a major endeavour. It determines the location and composition of constituencies and wards. Nothing can be more politically and socially sensitive. Changing boundaries has grave implications. Boundaries determine the number of voters. They are critical in establishing the political seats — constituency and ward — that political parties can aggregate. Politics is about numbers and the more the merrier. Which is why politicians and communities fight viciously when the boundaries of their electoral units are being redefined.
This process is coming at a critical moment. President Uhuru Kenyatta will be retiring in 2022 and, already, there are heightened debates and campaigns about who would take over from him. Hence, any administrative action being undertaken is viewed through political lenses and that undermines a sober and candid examination of issues. Political players seeking to ascend to that high office will work day and night to influence the outcome.
To be sure, IEBC does not have the power to raise or reduce the number of constituencies. The Constitution explicitly stipulates that there will be 290 members of the National Assembly elected in constituencies and 47 senators representing counties. In effect, what IEBC may purpose to do is to redraw the boundaries, rename some of them and distribute the population to ensure that the prescribed numbers are achieved.
But a more fundamental issue is credibility and the ability of IEBC to carry out this gargantuan task. As constituted, IEBC only has three commissioners: The rest quit more than a year ago and have never been replaced. It is, literally, a walking shell bereft of administrative and organisational capacity to undertake a major national duty.
Since the bungled 2017 elections, IEBC lost credibility, public trust and goodwill. Matters were made worse when four commissioners quit. Proposals have been made to disband the entity as it does not have the requisite capabilities to execute its mandate.
The boundary review is overdue and has to be rolled out. It is pertinent that the legislative and executive arms of the government take a keener interest in IEBC and initiate the requisite actions to reorganise and put it in good stead to do its work.
As things stand, IEBC cannot be relied upon to implement this noble and sacrosanct duty of reviewing electoral boundaries.