Last week IEBC launched the “2017 elections operational timelines”. But what is more worrying is that the Electoral commission is preparing us for another seemingly competitive election with a limping integrity. Although, the “Chicken gate scandal” has already secured convictions in the UK, in Kenya, cases linked to the scandal appear to have been swept under the carpet.
Meanwhile, the IEBC lays plans for the next election as if nothing happened.
The Chicken gate scandal involved Smith & Ouzman, a British firm that specializes in printing of security documents like ballot papers and exam certificates. The company allegedly paid bribes to Kenya’s Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya (IIEC) and the Kenyan National Examination Council (KNEC) officials between 2006 and 2013.
Whereas some commissioners and the former CEO who were alleged partakers of the scandal have long gone, the same Chairperson who oversaw the 2010 referendum and 2013 elections is expected to steer 2017 election process. The IEBC Chair is also alleged to have been involved in Chicken gate. As Parliament resumes sittings in February 2016 the IEBC baggage has to be confronted.
Firstly, the IEBC Chair’s continued presence in the Commission with such integrity baggage is not good for a commission that oversees a hallowed democratic ritual like an election. In recent times, electoral disputes have caused some of the worst conflicts, and Kenya is not an exception. This therefore, calls for caution and great care in constituting electoral bodies. The persons running these bodies must be seen as people of high integrity.
Secondly, public perception makes or breaks their belief in democracy. Key to this, institutional integrity of the electoral commission. If this democratic process, which is usually epitomized by an election is bungled, it shutters the dreams of a people as captured in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and makes a bloody revolution inevitable.
Thirdly, if Kenyans want people of integrity to take over Kenya in 2017 general election then the election must be overseen by people of Integrity. In democracies, elections are opportune time for the people to conduct a national leadership stock taking and replace some leaders while retaining some. It is not lost to us that IEBC shall be among the institutions that shall check the integrity of all candidates who shall present their candidature in the next election. Then are we ready to have a prefect with spots of corruption?
Fourthly, Kenyans have their doubts about the financial accountability of the IEBC and rightly so. At Ksh. 45 billion, IEBC seeks to make Kenya’s election the most expensive in the continent. Kenyans doubt the budget and the intentions of its formulators. The underlying question is, will it be used to buy some chickens for a few? IEBC may be genuine in asking for such a budget but they have already abused the trust.
What will it take for the IEBC to gain back Kenyan’s confidence and trust before the 2017 general election? Will Parliament ask the pertinent questions and seal loop-holes?