Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Wafula Chebukati never looks fazed, which is a good thing as it reassures people that all is under control. Unfortunately, it is all a con as in reality, he should be very worried because the performance of his commission will be under microscopic scrutiny to ensure that it delivers elections that are free, fair and credible in 64 days from today.
The fact is that it has failed to do this before, leading to the nullification of the 2017 presidential election. It would be catastrophic if it were to fail the test a second time round because the consequences would be untenable.
There are a myriad reasons why there is genuine concern and civil society organisation Angaza Movement enumerated some of them in a June 2 letter to Mr Chebukati. The issues range from the integrity of the voters’ register, the state of the technology to be deployed during the balloting process, counting and transmission of the result, issues around procurement of key voter materials, etc. There is of course the usual concern about the independence of the IEBC despite its repeated pushback that it operates freely and fairly.
The IEBC seems unconcerned that timelines within which it should have procured election equipment are fast closing in, giving credence that yet again, it is setting the stage for hurried and unprocedural procurement of the materials. It is procurement in a manner that reeks of illegality and corruption and which risks the wrath of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority if it finally becomes a matter for review as happened in a special audit in 2013.
The Angaza Movement raises pertinent concerns about the credibility of the technology that IEBC will use. The commission has yet to demonstrate to Kenyans that it possesses or has acquired technology that is “simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent”. If it has not acquired new technology, as is most likely the case, then it will be using technology that a KPMG 2017 audit found to be porous and easy to penetrate and effectively interfere with the electoral data it may contain. Surely, this is unacceptable and firm ground for an election petition.
With so few days left to the election, critical processes like cleaning up the voters’ register, voters verifying their data, and an independent audit of the register are yet to be completed. Is such inefficiency deliberate? Just this past week, the IEBC has had to deny reports that close to one million voters have either been deleted or been moved from stations in which they registered. Presidential candidate William Ruto was quick to claim that the disappearing voters are from his strongholds, which is expected from a clever politician planning ahead.
The claims could be exaggerated but it is hard to dismiss the allegation entirely if the past performance of the IEBC is anything to go by. Again the question, why is the IEBC acting as if it has only recently realised that the August 9 date is just around the corner?
Whereas it has warned in the past that it will be very firm in applying the law, and especially the clauses that demand the highest levels of integrity from those that seek to lead Kenyans, the IEBC has been pathetic in enforcing these, even in cases that are clear-cut. The recent clearance of convicted Sirisia MP John Walukhe to contest in the coming elections because the IEBC says it cannot bar anyone that has not exhausted all avenues to prove their innocence is shocking. Clearly, the IEBC does not care that the threshold for integrity was raised very high with the watershed High Court ruling which ejected from office governors charged with integrity-related cases until they are cleared.
Mr Walukhe and scores of other politicians that have been impeached, adversely mentioned or confirmed to have been involved in criminal actions and corruption should be barred from seeking public office until they are cleared of any such charges.
Surely any lawyer of average repute and capacity, let alone one of Mr Chebukati’s standing, must not prevaricate on a matter of such grave concern. Is he going to allow those who have lied about their educational qualifications to seek elective office?
These and other concerns must be courageously and honestly confronted to avoid a situation where the election results are rejected and the country is plunged into uncertainty or even violence.
Mr Chebukati has an opportunity to redeem the reputation of the IEBC whose past performance provides little confidence that it will seize this chance to make Kenyans proud of their electoral process. Will he take it?
The writer, a former Editor-in-Chief of Nation Media Group, is now consulting. [email protected]; @TMshindi