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Thursday, August 17, 2017

IEBC averted a near-disaster

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I woke up to a bright Kenyan Super Tuesday. Soon, I was on an unusually deserted road free of the usual bustle of people going about their business. Odd too was the absence of roadside congregations of voters waiting for a ‘handshake’ before entering a polling station to queue and vote. The absence of outstretched hands waiting to be greased before voting was a welcome relief for one who had spent half the night frantically chasing after some wayward IEBC officers.

Monday was the IEBC day for returning officers to credit agents appointed by candidates. Suddenly, in a seemingly choreographed execution, one by one agents appointed by NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga were being rejected by presiding and returning officers in scattered but numerically high centres across the country.

Raila would have ended up with no agents in many polling stations, and, with that, bye to a free, fair and credible election and a peaceful aftermath.

Whatever else he didn’t do right in this election, chairman Wafula Chebukati’s overnight intervention rescued Kenya from possible catastrophe. His whipping his officers into line came in the nick of time. You have to give it to NASA national campaign chairman Musalia Mudavadi for choosing the diplomatic route through an official complaint to the high echelons of the IEBC. Had he chosen the cantankerous route and called a press conference to protest, he would have set the country aflame.

The IEBC officials were full of contradictions: Some constituency returning officers were accepting the letters while others were rejecting them—in the same county. The illogical reason given for denying Raila’s agents accreditation was the same everywhere—that Raila had used the wrong letterhead.

Raila had used the NASA letterhead. One had the audacity to pretend to quote the law, inaccurately, that Raila should have used the ODM insignia. “Look here”, he faced me sternly, “NASA isn’t a political party and, therefore, those letters are fake,” he said, heaving, ready to attack. That’s not the law, it’s not even in the IEBC’s own manual.

It’s been a long time since I last encountered such a leech who could not comprehend that NASA is a duly registered coalition whose candidate is Raila. That aside, it matters little which letterhead Raila chose to use in appointing his agents. What mattered was his designating the agent with an affidavit and his own signature. Indeed, he might as well not have used any letterhead at all.

Evidently, independent candidates appointed their agents on blank papers, yet the same officers showed them in. That such a serious detail would escape an IEBC officer’s attention, putting lives at risk, is a lesson to the IEBC to recruit qualified personnel and not quacks in future.

This showed the officers had been compromised by the same source. The near-clinical manner the plot was executed tells of an elaborate plan whose consistency would be hard to tell, save by the most keen.

In Kakamega, KIEMS machines could not identify voters. But even after their details were identified through the alpha-numerical methods, poll officials still denied them the right to vote by doggedly claiming the password used to validate their details in the kit had expired.

In the same county, the names of the elderly and orphans recruited into the cash transfer programme, and youth who did menial jobs in the NYS, were missing from the register. In Vihiga county, a governor candidate was openly being assisted by security agents to bribe voters on their way to polling stations, while boda boda operators waved Jubilee flags, committing an electoral offence in the company of police.

No matter, as I penned this article, I’d just voted, having been in the longest queue ever since the shady mlolongo nominations of 1988. There were lines and lines snaking through hedges. The Kenyan spirit of patience is incredible and is what drives determined citizens to make an imprint on leadership. Kenyans spoke the way they have always spoken before, no violence during the election. The peaceful Kenyan on the queue was at odds with the wrong persona projected by some fervent fear-mongering religious groups.

What drives Kenyans into desperation is interference with tallying and transmission of results. Now that the results are out, I do hope Kenyans made the right choices and nobody has waylaid and diverted their wishes and will.

Communications, Publications and Conflict Management Specialist, University of Nairobi

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