What you need to know:
- The IEBC ought to be five years the wiser since the last general election, but once again seems not to have learnt from the past.
- The outgoing government should be impartial and ensure the campaigns and elections are conducted in a conducive environment with a level playing field.
- Civil society should promote issue-based politics, carry out civic education and be the eyes and ears of the people in elections observation.
It is said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
As we approach the August 9 General Election, we need to remember that each one of us has a role to play if the chain called Kenya is to hold strong.
Starting with the elections management agency – the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) – which is the most important player as the adjudicator and umpire in the electoral process.
Its level of preparedness and the skill with which it manages the elections will determine the integrity and the credibility of the outcome.
It has been reported that different parties and stakeholders have expressed their intention to set up their own tallying centres.
Lack of public trust
At face value, this may not appear alarming, but the implication could be a reflection of the lack of public trust that the stakeholders have in the IEBC.
Recent opinion polls show the confidence level is at 40 per cent, which is discouraging, bearing in mind that we have just a few weeks to go to the elections.
The IEBC ought to be five years the wiser since the last general election, but once again seems not to have learnt from the past.
Even the issues that made the Judiciary annul the previous presidential elections have not been completely dealt with.
The electoral agency has a lot to improve on, but of particular concern is its communication strategy.
They need to make deliberate efforts to constantly engage the public if they are to win back their confidence.
The IEBC must address all pressure points, including what technology they are deploying, the question of manual registers, accusations of collusion with ballot printers, allegations of partisan commissioners and staff members at the agency as well as the ability to electronically transmit results even from remote areas so as to enhance credibility.
For their part, political leaders have a focal role to play too.
Being heavily invested in the process, and being interested parties, they should at best be agents of peace and cohesion or at the very least refrain from divisive politics.
They should steer clear of hate speech based on tribe, gender or political persuasion and abstain from incitement against opponents.
Additionally, politicians and their supporters should accept results and in the event, they feel aggrieved, they must use the proper judicial processes to seek redress.
The outgoing government also has a role to play as a unifying factor.
It should be impartial and ensure the campaigns and elections are conducted in a conducive environment with a level playing field.
It should desist from using state resources in campaigns, and instead ensure that institutions like the IEBC, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the Judiciary are properly funded to enable them to carry out their mandates effectively.
Government officials and especially the local administration should not engage in the campaigns in any way.
They cannot be seen to be supporting some leaders and must remain impartial.
Security should be deployed and enhanced especially in areas perceived to be volatile.
The Church for its part must remain neutral and be the voice of reason at all times and with all people.
The Church is a home for everyone and must not be seen to support any candidate or any political formation.
The Church should use its structure to reach out to the people with civic, voter and peace education and should offer mediation, dialogue and reconciliation for the common good.
The Church should also offer spiritual guidance to the candidates and the political parties and encourage them to uphold integrity, championing peaceful coexistence and national cohesion.
The Church enjoys tremendous public trust as shown in a recent opinion poll.
The Churches should talk with one voice and never be divided lest they fall prey to manipulation by politicians.
They should strive to remain relevant to win the trust to mediate, dialogue and bring warring parties together.
The media also have a major role to play and cannot sidestep their responsibility as a public watchdog.
Journalists must be sensitive in their reporting and be objective at all times.
The media have a duty to balanced reporting and should not fan emotions.
For their part, the civil society should promote issue-based politics, carry out civic education and be the eyes and ears of the people in elections observation.
They should aggressively agitate and keep all players in check.
Finally, the citizens have the most critical role in electing leaders of integrity; inspirational servant leaders focused on service delivery; leaders who will protect the country’s wealth and environment; leaders who will be accountable to them as citizens and deliver the change they desire. This is both their right and responsibility.
Let us all join hands and pray for peaceful elections, a peaceful environment, a peaceful transition and a peaceful new beginning.
The writer is the Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Ngong