Kinjekitile Ngwale the man who led a rebellion against the colonial Germans in Tanzania had convinced his soldiers that the German bullets would not kill them if they sprinkled water-which he provided, hence the Maji Maji rebellion. Of course they died, by their hundreds! If Kinjekitile’s efforts remind us anything today, it’s that having good intentions alone is not enough. We need to have a plan. A good plan.
IEBC can’t go about the 2017 poll the way the leader of the Maji Maji rebellion approached his challenge. Mark-you, the Tanzanian freedom fighter had the entire people behind him.
Elections in sub-Saharan Africa is very much like pre-colonial battles in the sense that people are preparing to remove one government and replace it with another. IEBC is the institution that’s supposed to ensure that the transition-effected by voting does not get bloody by overseeing the whole process to ensure those leaving feel it was the will of the people and vice versa.
That explains why the three-day conference on elections preparedness by IEBC was so important. The electoral agency broke the conference into thematic areas: one, inclusive participation of youth, women, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and marginalized communities. Thematic area two: electing leaders of integrity; three: Impact of elections on security, peace and business. Thematic area four: electoral operations and technology, and finally, voter education and stakeholder engagement.
IEBC was hoping to demonstrate to the country that they are in control of the process and not the politicians and that Kenyans should have every reason to trust them to manage credible elections. However, it left glaring gaps that probably make the commission appear more ill-prepared than before. Concerning the first thematic area, IEBC gave a very short time for verification of voter details. Women who are not only the majority, work odd hours in addition to managing households. Did IEBC consider that when offering time? Additionally, were the equipment accessible to PWDs?
On the matter of electing leaders of integrity, the electoral agency has been blowing cold and hot throughout. This despite the support offered by both the civil society’s redcard20 team and the EACC list of 106 politicians with dubious records. Everyone with a disturbing record was cleared. The chairman only mumbled that their hands were tied pointing fingers to the courts as the weakest link.
IEBC also failed to come out strongly as the institution that can ensure elections does not impact negatively on peace, security and business. The overall stability and instability is based on the players going into the ballot without any doubts that it’s free and fair. Already opposition has cried foul over the tendering process of the ballot papers. The court had also warned IEBC on flouting the Procurement Act and ordered fresh tendering only for IEBC to invoke their ability to single source-again. Dubai-based Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing LLC clinched the lucrative Sh2.5 billion.
The opposition leader Raila Odinga baffled those present at the same conference when he revealed that the company has insider dealings with the president who is also a player in the coming august poll. Jubilee has however countered through majority leader Duale that Raila was bitter his friends [South African Printing firm Paarl Media (Pty) Ltd] were denied the tender by IEBC. Whether Raila or Dwale says the truth is really not important but the perception the information the two are dishing the media is having on the country’s overall perception of IEBC. While the country may be sympathetic to Chebukati’s team as much of what is playing out begun way before they took office, if they don’t nip this in the bud it might just provide the right fodder for those spoiling for war.
The three day conference was a step in the right direction. Rather than showing the preparedness it revealed the much work IEBC has to do in less than two months to the country’s high stakes general elections yet. The difference between the Maji Maji rebellion and the Mau Mau was that Kenyan freedom fighters were thoroughly prepared due to many factors including World War II and effectively used the guerilla tactics to hold their ground longer than the colonial government expected. What IEBC needs to do, and first is to learn from this conference and assert itself and stop letting politicians in government or otherwise present their case for them.