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Debate on Non- Kenyan IEBC Commissioners a Testament to an ailing Democracy

Posted by on 29th July 2016

Categories: Elections 2017 Uncategorized

 

Political drama is fodder for many Kenyans and that explains the heavy political content offered by our media houses. Unfortunately, our political players get carried away in their desire to show their political bravado and keep up the drama a little too long; thereby, sending signals that outside intervention might be necessary to calm their braggadocio.  At least that is what some Kenyans including political scientist Professor Bogonko think about the IEBC conundrum.

Prof. Bogonko recently suggested that the IEBC commissioners eat a humble pie and resign with dignity to pave way for a new team to be led by two foreign commissioners. His argument stems from the fact the country has in the past hired foreigners to lead important commissions where impartiality was paramount. It therefore should follow that this could be the remedy for the electoral commission that is dogged with credibility challenges every election year.

The idea to have polls run by foreigners was first fronted by opposition leaders in 2014. The leaders led by Senator James Orengo claimed that management of elections remained a thorny issue so long as a Kenyan was at the top suggesting that non-partisanship required non-Kenyans to manage elections.

It’s quite disturbing that over 50-years after independence we can’t agree on a clear way forward on how to manage our elections. Considering foreigners to manage our polls is practically an admission that Kenya is a failed state. To date only Afghanistan and Iraq are known to have outsourced electoral commissioners in 2004 and 2005 respectively through the United Nations (UN). Other countries that have seen the UN get involved, at least in the managing of elections are Cambodia and East Timor.

That this debate is raging should be the watershed moment both for our drama loving politicians and the IEBC commissioners- who have decided to stay put despite obvious lack of confidence from the public. No truly democratic nation has non-citizens on its electoral commission. Only failed states tend to gravitate to this model. Perhaps our politicians from both sides of the divide that are maintaining hard lines on the matter should really think if we should be in the same league with failed states.

The writing has been on the wall since CORD called for the disbandment of the commission. Politicians need to stop dilly-dallying and make the difficult choice. Luckily sanity prevailed and MPs shelved the report that National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee had cleared the chairman and his fellow commissioners of any wrong. The ball is now in the bi-partisan select committee court. It is time they proved the worth of their leadership. Nonetheless, it’s the IEBC chair and his eight commissioners that are creating the storm in the tea cup.

Surely, if the inter-religious council, the civil rights community, Law Society of Kenya, COTU and a sizeable number of Kenyans are dissatisfied with you, why should you put up a fight? Why should you even let Kenyans contemplate non-Kenyans for the job; like you were born to be commissioners?  Why should the IEBC commissioners wait for the Attorney General to advise the bi-partisan select committee that the former should be prevailed upon to leave voluntarily?

Chairman Hassan could borrow a leaf from the out-going British PM who having sensed the change in tide following the Brexit referendum decided to step down. It shows a man driven by conviction rather than ego.

As for the debate to have a non-Kenyan, let’s sober up. We have not reached that point. There are men and women of integrity in this country that can run credible elections. All we need to do is to look outside of politics. And our politicians should also tone down the unnecessary rhetoric lest we end up a failed state.

 

June 2016

Posted by on 27th June 2016

Categories: Elections 2017

After intense lobbying by members of the clergy and diplomats, opposition leaders softened their hard stance and called off their weekly demonstrations in favour of dialogue. The two main Coalitions- Jubilee and Cord who are antagonists in the IEBC debate agreed to form a team to iron out the electoral contentious issues before they are discussed in Parliament.

  • 1st June: Parliament reduced the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) budget by Ksh 450 Million. The Chair of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Hon Chepkonga stated that the reduction will not impact on the Commission’s preparations for 2017 General Elections.

 

  • 2nd June: Cord named a five member team to engage Jubilee in talks to disband IEBC. Cord team comprised Senator James Orengo, Senator Johnson Muthama, Hon Eseli Simiyu, Hon Mishi Mboko and Hon Abdikadir Aden. The team was named despite President Kenyatta denying any agreement between him and Mr. Odinga to have such a team to solve the IEBC conundrum. At the same time, Amani National Congress leader Mr. Musalia Mudavadi warned that “gentleman’s agreement’ between politicians will not solve the electoral commission’s stalemate.

 

  • 3rd June: A bill to give political parties a voice in appointing commissioners of the electoral body was prepared by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee and taken to the government printer. Another bill that seeks to increase the period set by the Constitution to determine a presidential election petition from 14 days to 30 days was also tabled.

 

  • 4th June: During the National Prayer Breakfast religious leaders led by National Council of Churches of Kenya General Secretary Rev Canon Peter Karanja, Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops – Bishop Alfred Rotich and Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims Secretary General Adan Wachu pleaded with politicians to give dialogue a chance. The members of the clergy vowed to soldier on with the mediation path until an amicable solution is found.

 

  • 8th June: The Cabinet Secretary for Interior Security banned opposition demonstrations. In a quick rejoinder the opposition chiefs rubbished the ban and vowed to continue with the protests until IEBC is reconstituted. To add salt into injury the opposition increased the number of protest days from once per week to twice per week.

 

  • 8th June: The United Kingdom advised its citizens visiting Kenya to be vigilant due to the ongoing wave of opposition protests. The advisory note stated that more protests are planned in other cities in the coming months. The advisory may hurt Kenya’s tourism sector.

 

  • 13th June: The electoral body got set to upgrade its systems so as to make transmissions of the 2017 poll results efficient. The Commission has invited companies’ to bid for the upgrade of its results management system and data centre. The upgrade is estimated to cost Ksh 250 million. When in place the new system is expected to ensure that the voter register and elections results are secure and readily available for retrieval.

 

  • 23rd June: The opposition Cord and the ruling Jubilee coalition ceded ground and agreed to form a team to steer dialogue on the IEBC stalemate. The 14 members select team is supposed to come up with recommendations that will ensure 2017 elections are free and fair. A motion to be tabled in Parliament will give the team the legal mandate to:
  1. i) Recommend legal, policy and institutional reforms to strengthen the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC),

ii)Improve the electoral system and process so as to ensure the August 2017 elections are free and fair; and

iii) Ensure the elections are administered in an impartial, efficient, simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent manner.

 

May 2016

Posted by on 27th May 2016

Categories: Elections 2017 Uncategorized

Demos by the opposition Cord were at their peak. In the street protests, three people were shot dead in Kisumu and Siaya. Opposition was adamant dialogue on IEBC reforms could not be brokered within Parliament under the standing orders.

  • 4th May: The Council of Governors stated that the IEBC needed to be a commission that meets the satisfaction of everyone.
  • 4th May: The Methodist Church led by its presiding Bishop Joseph N’tobura distanced the Church from the NCCK stand on disbandment of IEBC. The Bishop in his statement claimed that the stand is wrong and misguided and that IEBC can only be disbanded through constitutional means.
  • 6th May: IEBC Commissioners dared CORD leaders to table evidence that they have an agreement with President Kenyatta’s Jubilee to rig the 2017 elections. If such evidence is tabled the commissioners said they would resign immediately. The IEBC officials accused the opposition leaders of character assassination and peddling falsehoods.
  • 8th May: Parliament offered to solve the IEBC conundrum. A proposal tabled by Hon Samuel Chepkonga proposed to have a joint sitting of both the National Assembly and Senate’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committees. The joint committee was to have hearings from all the stakeholders and produce a report within 90 days. To boost Chepkonga’s proposal a bipartisan caucus of 50 MPs led by Hon. Kabando wa Kabando and Hon. David Ochieng wanted all stakeholders to clarify the issues that need to be resolved before 2017. The caucus sought to draw up comprehensive proposals on legal and institutional reforms aimed at preparing the country for peaceful, transparent and credible elections.
  • 10TH May: Diplomats representing various donor countries – US Robert Godec, UK Nic Hailey, Australia John Feakes, Belgium Roxane de Bilderling, Canada David Angell, Denmarks Mette Knudish, France Remi Marechaux, Germany Jutta Frasch, Norway Victor Ronneberg, Netherlands Frans Makken, Sweden Johan Borgstam and Head of EU delegation Stefano-Antonio Dejak – countries spoke out and condemned opposition protests and lobbied for dialogue to avoid chaos in 2017 elections. In a statement, the envoys stated, “Violence will not resolve the issues regarding the future of IEBC or ensure the 2017 elections are free and fair.” These diplomats reacted after police and protesters clashed leaving three dead and several injured.
  • 13th May: Kenya African National Union (KANU) party joined CORD in their agitation to have the IEBC disbanded. KANU is one of the political parties that have scores to settle with IEBC since their loss in Kericho Senatorial by-elections.
  • 13th May: Parliament questioned the IEBC’s request for Sh45 billion to conduct 2017 general elections. The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee evoked questions raised by the Public Accounts Committee when auditing the procurement of electronic equipment used in the 2013 general elections. The Commission was asked to clear the integrity questions raised by PAC before their budget could be approved. The commissioners were supposed to answer questions on the BVR tender and irregular payments amounting to sh258 million.
  • 15th May: The president met senior Jubilee Members of Parliament in State House to discuss the IEBC stalemate. In the meeting were majority leaders of both houses. After the meeting, their hard stance of having a parliamentary led dialogue was cemented. Their position remained that, IEBC commissioners shall not be sent home unless by law.
  • 29th May: Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi re-stated that IEBC reforms can only be initiated through Parliament. He emphasized that the Constitution ought to be adhered to. He pleaded with CORD leaders who are scared of Jubilee’s numbers in Parliament that the House has goodwill in reforming IEBC.

Analysis: In the continued hullabaloo on IEBC, no particular group that has come up with substantive enforceable reforms. The dominant talk in the political market is on the resignation of the IEBC commissioners. In all fairness, change of individuals at the helm of an institution doesn’t amount to electoral reforms.

The opposition CORD isn’t so clear on what it wants whereas the ruling party appears unclear on what to do with IEBC. The entire debate has been reduced to a playground of power play and meaningless political bickering.

Lack of leadership and consensus has resulted to weekly protests that bring the capital into a stand still. Away from the capital, protests have been held in opposition strongholds mostly in Luo Nyanza where the police has unleashed brutality in dispersing rowdy protesters (Police brutality is a no but so is a reckless protest). In Kisumu and Siaya, three people have lost their lives so far.

April 2016

Posted by on 27th April 2016

Categories: Elections 2017

IEBC Credibility in Question:

The month saw a number of players question the IEBC’s credibility. The lead has been the CORD coalition following the rejection of the Okoa Kenya signatures. The Opposition has harboured a grievance against the IEBC since 2013 Supreme Court decision about the contested Presidency and now calls for disbandment of the Commission.

  • 9th April: The Catholic bishops, the Chief Justice and Civil Society Organizations warned of violence in the next election unless the government does ‘something radical.’
  • 21st April: The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) also pointed out the IEBC credibility is in doubt as it has not put in place the necessary reforms to hold a credible election. Public confidence in the IEBC is at an all-time low at 28 per cent.
  • 23rd April: The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) joined the bandwagon pushing for the reconstruction of the IEBC in the lead up to the Elections to inspire public confidence. The church body also called for a new Supreme Court and public testing of all electronic equipment to be used in the polls.
  • 25th April: The Law Society of Kenya also joined calls for the disbandment and reconstitution of the IEBC and in particular asked the Chair Isaack Hassan to step aside from his position as corruption investigations remain pending. The Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) also pushed for the same.

 

On the same day, CORD led their supporters to IEBC headquarters seeking to eject the officials from office, however their attempts were thwarted by heavy police presence and use of tear gas.

Given the prevailing doubts about the integrity, impartiality and capacity of the IEBC to run free and fair elections, will the institution be reconstituted in time for the 2017 elections?

 

 

 

March 2016

Posted by on 27th March 2016

Categories: Elections 2017

Accusations discrediting the electoral body by a number of disgruntled political parties increased.

  • 7th March: By-Elections: The IEBC ran by-elections in Kericho and Malindi. The two electoral posts fell vacant after President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Charles Keter and Dan Kazungu Cabinet Secretaries for Energy and Mining respectively. The two by elections were hotly contested and unsubstantiated claims of rigging were peddled.

KANU, the losing Party in Kericho by-election led by its Chairman Baringo Senator Gideon Moi claimed that a group of experts employed by the party to probe the by election outcome, revealed massive discrepancies occasioned by use of technology which manipulated the outcome. They said that the IEBC relayed results wired to its servers by Jubilee Party (JP) which had been manipulated to inflate the figures of the eventual winner Aaron Cheruiyot.

In a rejoinder, IEBC dismissed claims by KANU. According to the IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba, the Commission had not received any complaint of either electoral malpractice or misconduct, from the party, as required under the procedures of the Elections Act. Chiloba said the only concern raised by KANU on the night of the elections was that the results – which we understood to be provisional results – were coming in too fast. Chiloba said the Commission is in the process of compiling the report of the by-elections.

How will IEBC guard against such allegations in the coming elections?

  • 15th March: Voter RegistrationThe February/March mass voter registration (MVR) missed the target by 70% as the commission managed to register slightly under 1 million out of the expected 4 million. To say that was a dismal performance is an understatement. Their reason for failing to meet the target was the usual excuse of insufficient funds. Meaning the Ksh. 500 million given to them was not enough to register all eligible voters.

 

  • 28th March: Okoa Kenya Referendum The opposition coalition –CORD-, push to change the Constitution collapsed in March when the electoral commission ruled that they had failed to get one million signatures necessary to force a referendum. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission declared that only 891,598 signatures out of the 1.6 million submitted by Cord, had been found to be authentic.

 

Apparently, the names rejected were those not found in the voters register. Some records had signatures but without ID or passport numbers while others had just names and no other entries. In total, the verifiers found that 741,979 of the 1,633,577 submitted had failed to meet the threshold authenticating only 891,598 of the signatures as valid.

 

Constitutional amendments can only happen through a referendum if it is supported by at least one million registered voters which the Okoa Kenya Initiative did not attain. A proposed constitutional amendment initiative can only be tabled before county assemblies if the IEBC has verified the signatures accompanying the proposed amendment and is satisfied that the amendment initiative is in accordance with the law.

 

The rejection of Okoa Kenya worsened the already grim relationship between the Opposition coalition and the electoral body. As a result, the Opposition has criminalized the institution among its supporters. Can the IEBC regain its credibility?

February 2016

Posted by on 27th February 2016

Categories: Elections 2017

The Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) begun a month long voter registration exercise set to end on 15th March. Over the period, the Commission hoped to register 4 million voters.

  • 17th February: IEBC Integrity – The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Corruption (EACC) started investigating Kenyan officials implicated in the “Chicken Gate scandal.” Isaack Hassan, the current chair of the IEBC is alleged to have been involved and the case has already secured convictions in the UK.

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. Will the lingering integrity issues affect IEBC’s credibility? Read our blog here.

  • Our Analysis: The IEBC did not give the much needed guidance and information about the mass voter registration exercise in good time. Despite their continuous request for more funds there’s little evidence of voter education as can be confirmed by the results. Interestingly, countries with far bigger eligible voters spend less than what IEBC requested with impressive results which begs the question: are the dynamics here too different or the commission is over relying on financial resource at the expense of strategy?

Admittedly, regions where leaders called on people to register had impressive results but that was partly because leaders from these regions claimed IEBC was not fully in control of the exercise and accused the government of interferences.

The argument over voter apathy also holds little water as most eligible voters were turned away for having old generation ID cards when IEBC should have foreseen that challenge and acted proactively to ensure nobody was turned away. In other cases, there were fewer Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits prompting some individuals to make unsubstantiated allegations over favoritism by the IEBC.

Read our blog assessing the voter registration (here)

January 2016

Posted by on 27th January 2016

Categories: Elections 2017

Twenty months before the 2017 General elections, politicians have started evoking political temperatures and subjecting the country to unnecessary tension. (Read More)

27th January 2016: Party Hopping Sanctioned :Parliamentarians pushed the office of the Registrar of Political Parties, to delete the Political Parties Clause that prevents party hopping. The deletion would allow Parliamentarians to campaign and support ideologies of other Parties that sponsored them to Parliament without the risk of losing their seats. Will their request make it into the proposed amendments to the Political Parties Act?