Most of us will agree that it is hard to be an IEBC commissioner. This is one institution that is supposed to be active throughout the election cycle but suddenly pops up during the election year. Due to its past, every one of us may hold a grudge against the institution but truth be said, IEBC is more often than not a victim of circumstances.
As much as the institution is designed to be independent, in many ways politicians have managed to enslave it. IEBC operates by the whims of politicians who are determined to erase the “I’’ in IEBC. Knowingly or unknowingly, the many blunders that IEBC commits during an election are blunders instigated by politicians. The few elections that the electoral body has conducted, it always comes in a rush and unprepared thereby denting its image. Take for instance, in the last election the reason for the nullification of the presidential election was majorly based on transmission of election results. This would have been remedied if IEBC had conducted a mock election to test internet strength in areas where they had doubts.
Kenya has had a history of sham elections. To avert this litany of electoral malpractices such as those of the historical 2007 general elections, Justice Krigler in his report recommended application of technology in subsequent Kenya’s elections. In his thinking, technology would have lowered the possibility of tampering with election results or decrease the risk of rigging. What we did not anticipate is, technology operated by unethical personnel is still useless. The 2013 and 2017 elections are a good example, in many ways technology was made not to work and the electoral body had no choice but to revert to the manual way of doing this. These are some of the actions that were declared illegal in the 2017 presidential election petition.
Less than one year to the general election. The electoral body through its chairman is complaining that the Communication Authority hasn’t installed a 3G network in all the polling stations. This is risky! Lack of proper internet in all polling stations renders the entire election technology useless. Far much worse, the election may be termed illegal because without the internet, manual transmission may be the only way. If the government was committed to a proper free and fair election, installation of the infrastructure that will enable internet penetration in all polling stations would have been a priority in the last four years. Since that was not the case expect the same old grievances during the 2022 general elections.
The treasury has also been another frustrating agent in the preparation for elections. As much as our election is a weirdly expensive affair. By now we should have accepted this reality in budgeting. In any case, it’s our high level of mistrust that has made this happen. In other jurisdictions elections are conducted by civil servants and even volunteers. Would you imagine that in Kenya? Because of our high affinity to dishonesty, we shall have to pay a fortune. This is to meet the cost of a very expensive electoral body, thousands of election officials and finally election technologies. Truly, our elections are unnecessarily expensive because of our unique dynamics and that’s why the Treasury ought to have planned better. It is scary now to have the chairman complaining for lack of funds because this will ultimately have an impact on the credibility of the election. It is not wise to have a scenario whereby election materials are being procured hurriedly at the last minute.
Surprisingly, politicians in Parliament who are expected to have a primary interest in a free and fair election are the number one sluggish in creating an enabling environment for the electoral body. The August house has disappointed the IEBC by not passing electoral laws. Some of the laws still lying in parliament are The Referendum Bill 2020, The IEBC (Amendment) Bill 2020 and The Electoral Campaign Finance (amendment) Bill 2020 among others. Some of these laws may also touch on the suitability of the current crop of politicians in running for an election and hence the delay.
Finally, the chaos that we experience in all election years is shameful and costly. It is expected that by now we have learnt and applied the lessons of our past in running a credible election, unfortunately this is not the case. This consistent unpreparedness ought to be called by people who care, as soon as possible. We cannot afford instability in 2022, we have been there and I am sure no one liked it.
Opinion piece by Gitungo Wamere.