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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Is credible election a mirage?

NASA luminary Raila Odinga with IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati (C) and CEO Ezra Chiloba during their meeting at the Capital Hill on February 8, 2017. /Jack Owuor
NASA luminary Raila Odinga with IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati (C) and CEO Ezra Chiloba during their meeting at the Capital Hill on February 8, 2017. /Jack Owuor

On Thursday May 4, I attended a consultative forum called by the IEBC to consult and brief non-state actors on their progress for a national conference in preparation for the August 8 elections. The IEBC earlier had similar meetings with political parties and the media.

The objectives were to one promote complementarity of the roles of stakeholders in fostering national cohesion and achieving credible and peaceful elections and, two invite participation and commitment of key players towards the proposed National Elections Conference.

If the overall aim was to inspire confidence and trust in the IEBC, then neither was achieved and, instead, left the participants feeling dissatisfied and very concerned at the level of preparedness by the IEBC. To put it mildly, it was a whitewash with potential catastrophic consequences for the election.

The forum had a good attendance, with a respectable representation of both civil society and government bodies. To begin with, the forum although slated for 11am did not take off till close to midday. It was meant to end at 1pm. The first 30-45 minutes were taken up by prayers and introductory remarks by representatives of UNDP, the IEBC secretary/CEO and Kura Yangu, Sauti Yangu (KYSY) a broad-based coalition of civil society actors engaged in the electoral process. IEBC vice chairperson Consolata Maina then took the plenary through a PowerPoint presentation of their plan for the National Conference. This session ended at about 12.30 pm.

It all started unravelling after that, during the Q&A session, which was moderated by commissioner Roselyn Akombe.

A visibly angry member of civil society asked the IEBC to come clean on the goings-on within the commission related to the voters’ register. Akombe gave a quick rejoinder, saying the session was only dealing with the National Conference matter. Yet, this aspect was dealt with in the presentation made by Maina earlier in the session.

Three other participants pursued the matter. A KYSY representative painstakingly pointed out that they had met KPMG and raised several questions regarding the register. He asked if the commission had been briefed by KPMG on these concerns. The question was met with a stony silence!

Obviously, cracks were beginning to develop in the IEBC’s presentation and in the programme for the National Conference: Several hands shot up. It was now about 12.55 pm and the Q&A session had been ongoing for a mere 20 minutes or so. Akombe then abruptly announced that the session was over and proceeded to thank the plenary for their attendance and feedback! Whispers and expressions of surprises flashed through the plenary! What was going on? Was this meeting designed to just be a window-dressing process in order to rubber-stamp a flawed planning process?

The IEBC vice chairperson then intervened and allowed a few more questions and after another 10 minutes, the session was closed and the plenary invited for lunch. It was as if the lunch was meant to placate a visibly angry and concerned group of citizens.

So what are the conclusions? One, that the preparation towards the National Conference has been inadequate, unrepresentative and undemocratic, to say the least, two; that the IEBC is not adequately prepared for the August 8 election and three; that the IEBC was partisan to say the least, and represents the dictates of the ruling party.

The aim is to make all the right noises and do all the PR with no substance. If this is the IEBC that is going to take Kenya into the General Election, then God help Kenyans! I only hope that what happened in 2007-08 will not be repeated, this time on a scale the government will not be able to control. We have already heard that the security forces will not allow any kind of protest at the elections results. Is this how the government is going to secure peace? Would it not be more prudent to ensure a fair, free and credible process to be the custodian of peace rather than allow police to use their security apparatuses?

As matters stand, the IEBC is not living up to either its vision or its mission. God Bless Kenya.


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