Credible, Democratic Polls Are Mandatory
In last month, the International Center for Policy and Conflict has organised a series of public engagement forums aimed at strengthening and sustaining the public demand for upholding of genuine rule of law; fostering accountability in the governance of the country; and reflecting on the gains and fears in building inclusive and legitimate democratic institutions flowing from the constitution. This is a continuous, systematic and structured engagement initiative to promote ethical governance and accountability. We encourage everyone to inject small doses to ensure the country completely cures the mutating and all-consuming cancer of unethical leadership in public governance.
Even more importantly at this particular time in Kenya’s history, we have to deeply reflect on and sustain advocacy for a credible, democratic and secure electoral process that truly meets the will of the people. The need for this agenda cannot be gainsaid if you look at it from the perspective of events culminating with the bungled 2007 general election, and the increasing incidences of false starts by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. I have in mind not only IEBC’s apparently unsatisfactorily voter registration process but also the reclusive and hands-off approach that the commissioners seem to be adopting with regard to ensuring electoral ethics in the nascent electoral democracy.
We are, however, alive to the fact that it not just the IEBC that is in the spotlight in guaranteeing an electoral process above reproach. Security agencies and the justice system are under scrutiny. Both have to be non-partisan and objective to meaningfully contribute to good governance and be part of sustainable democratisation in Kenya. Their objective conduct or lack of it will leave an indelible mark in the country’s conscience during the next general election. It will also be an unacceptable setback in the country’s efforts to achieve a sense of just economic stability that most of Kenya’s neighbours are unknown for.
It is, perhaps, important to warn at this stage that the police and broader security sector in Kenya is yet to live to this billing of objectivity. There are deliberate efforts to frustrate and retain continuity in this crucial sector through sabotage and obstructing reforms. The Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence observed there was widespread belief that the role of Kenya’s security agencies in the 2007-08 PEV aggravated the crisis. Its key findings indicated that the police were inadequately prepared, citing specifically lack of professional, timely and quality planning; poor investigative capacity; absence of joint operational arrangements between the various state security agencies and failure to act on available intelligence.
Despite the CIPEV's ground-breaking recommendations and the enactment of the Constitution and National Police Service Act 2011 (which has never received a commencement date up to now) nothing significant has changed. Independent, impartial, transparent, effective and efficient electoral management body as well as security and justice systems is a prerequisite for the institutionalisation of a viable democratic and clean political culture. These are bare irreducible minimums! Yet, they are the challenges the nation must tackle to strengthen the institutions of democracy for inclusive fair economy growth and social progress.
The challenge is more daunting because there are road blocks on the way, some of which are deliberately created by politicians who are averse to decent way of conducting public affairs. It is a challenge we face both individually and collectively to build a society that can raise its head in the comity of nations that are today dictating the pace in shaping policies for growth and development across the globe.
The Kenyan citizenry must robustly engage in purposeful public policy discourse. We must resist temptation to dismissively lament of the poor state of things and forget so soon thereafter. Accountable democracy is actually sustained by an alert active citizenry. We must stop rewarding corrupt, thieving and abusive leadership. Corruption and criminal conducts accrue to individuals not ethnic groups.
I therefore call upon Kenyans to increasingly rise to the occasion; speak boldly, demonstrate goodwill by engaging with these issues; and demand seamless break from past electoral lawlessness. In place of lawlessness, we must install rule of law. In place of electoral malpractices, we must install professionalism; and in place of self-centered ethnic mobilization politics, we must demand accountability!
The writer is the Executive Director, International Center for Policy and Conflict. firstname.lastname@example.org.