For the umpteenth time, the Catholic clergy have raised their voices against the push for change of leadership at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Like other proponents of the status quo, they are concerned about the potential disruptive effect such a move would have on preparations for the next elections, which are less than 11 months away.
And they never tire of quoting the Kriegler report – the equivalent of the Bible for Kenya’s polls since 2008 – which decreed against late changes at the IEBC.
Kenyans being Kenyans, we have breached the Kriegler rule once again – significantly reconstituting the electoral agency only two weeks ago, with the swearing-in of four of the seven commissioners.
The High Court judgment in the BBI case in May revealed the IEBC has been fairly idle, with the last time it listed new voters being 2019 for the Kibra by-election.
It expects to begin mass voter listing next month and do pretty much everything else related to operational preparations for the next elections within 10 months.
Elephant in the room
Simply put, preparations for 2022 are already late anyway. But concerns about operations should not distract us from the elephant in the room – which is that we are approaching another potentially explosive election with the wrong referee.
It is clear IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati doesn’t enjoy the confidence of all the teams. His position has recently become the subject of partisan politics related to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s and Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential ambitions.
Sulking over 2017 poll outcome
Mr Odinga’s ODM party, still sulking over the disputed outcome of the 2017 presidential election, has in recent weeks toned down its anti-Chebukati rhetoric after some politicians from the IEBC boss’s ethnic community leaped to his defence.
The Ruto camp has predictably defended Mr Chebukati, seeking to portray ODM as a habitual grievance monger. It is unlikely that the political sparring over the IEBC chairman will take a break for too long.
Mr Chebukati has his work – of defusing the suspicions and trying to win the confidence of his critics in the next 10 months – cut out. But perhaps he would have spared the IEBC and the country all this if he had resigned a long time ago.
On his watch, the commission has been embroiled in enough chaos to warrant an exit. Four commissioners resigned between 2017 and 2018 amid personal safety fears and boardroom fights over procurement.
Past audit reports found the commission was a cash cow for tenderpreneurs and law firms.
Then there is the not-so-small matter of the Supreme Court judgment, which found that the IEBC under Mr Chebukati bungled the 2017 presidential election.
If it weren’t for the extremely low standards Kenyans have set for public institutions and the tendency to reward mediocrity, Mr Chebukati should have handed in his resignation the next day.
It is never too late to replace the wrong referee.
[email protected] @otienootieno