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September 20, 2018

Expert comment: We have reached the point of no return with IEBC

Kenyan opposition leader of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), Raila Odinga waves to his supporters during a protest near the premises hosting the headquarters of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to demand the disbandment of the electoral body ahead of next year's election in Nairobi, Kenya, May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
Kenyan opposition leader of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), Raila Odinga waves to his supporters during a protest near the premises hosting the headquarters of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to demand the disbandment of the electoral body ahead of next year's election in Nairobi, Kenya, May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

FIRST of all let me say this: I acknowledge the legality and the constitutionality of the demonstrations: Because they are provided for in the constitution. But given the turn of events, and the fact that both the demonstrators and the police do not seem to have enough restraint so as not to be violent, I believe that the option of talks and dialogue is better than the one of demonstrations.

And given what happened in 2007 and 2008, and what we went through, that makes it all the more necessary that we should do everything to avoid anything that can escalate into violence. Because, ultimately, we shall be taking ourselves back to the days of the post-election violence, and even back to the days of Kanu. The other thing I want to mention is that we have a problem with the IEBC.

This is a responsibility that can only be carried out with maximum trust, when the IEBC can no longer have the trust of the public; when the IEBC has driven so many stakeholders in the country to feel uncomfortable with them; I think in such a situation it is incumbent upon the IEBC commissioners to resign or retire – to move out of office. Given where things have reached, I cannot possibly see how people’s faith and confidence in the IEBC can be restored before the elections.

Or even see how the results of any elections that they oversee can be universally acceptable across this country. So, I really think we have reached a point of no return with the IEBC. And I am sure that if the President asked for dialogue tomorrow, it would be very difficult for the other side to say No to him.

So, I feel that he has a responsibility that he cannot delegate; he must accept the responsibility to ensure that whatever changes the country needs in regard to the IEBC, are properly attained: That they are peacefully attained. When Tanzania’s CCM discussed whether to adopt multiparty democracy or not, Dr Julius Nyerere said changes towards multiparty democracy were inevitable and had been embraced by the whole world. He said, “We don’t have to like this. But it is something that is happening. We cannot stop it. So let us embrace it and manage it to our own benefit.” I think the same advice would apply to President Uhuru Kenyatta at this time.

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