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January 16, 2019

Why move on IEBC should scare

IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan and commissioner Thomas Letangule when the commission recently appeared before the Parliamentary Justice Legal Affairs Committee.
IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan and commissioner Thomas Letangule when the commission recently appeared before the Parliamentary Justice Legal Affairs Committee.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission commissioners are finally going home.

Cord says the move is long overview. Jubilee is happy that the political conflict is over. The rest of us are just sighing with relief that there is no longer an excuse to call for disruptive public demonstrations and violent confrontations with the police.

However there is a fundamental message ordinary Kenyans have missed in all this.

In 2010 we passed one of the most progressive constitutions in the world. However what stood out even more about it was that just three years earlier we had been on the verge of destroying everything our country stood for because of an electoral dispute. Yet, here we were, 32 months later, passing a constitution that fundamentally changed how Kenyans were governed, without a life lost or a building destroyed.

The best part of it all was that due to what had happened in 2007 practically every adult in Kenya at the time participated in the constitutional determination process in some way. Those who lost the vote could therefore explain why they had voted against the constitution in detail; while those whose votes carried the day could articulate the reasons they had voted for it. This was unlike any other election we had held in Kenya in the previous 20 years, including the 2005 referendum. In past elections we voted for or against something based on some ethnic undertones. In 2010 we had voted based on issues.

It was therefore a moment of pride for all of us. One that counterbalanced the shame we had caused ourselves locally, and the embarrassment we had attached to our national identity internationally, after the 2007 post election violence.

Now, constitutions are what define how the governed relate with the governors. Specifically, constitutions protect the governed from the governors. In our case we went overboard on the desire to achieve this protection, for good reason. We therefore came up with specific details of how to do literally everything we could think of. We explained who did what, why, when and where. We also explained who did not do what, and why. We did not want gaps.

On the electoral body we came up with a commission to deal with both elections and boundary demarcation. We also specifically demanded that it be INDEPENDENT. To make this certain we went into great detail on how commissioners would be appointed, protected whilst in office, and discharged from office should the need arise. Last week all this was overturned through a political negotiation amongst those who govern us.

In the midst of the relief that there is a political settlement on the IEBC we are missing the fact that a precedent has been set. Henceforth, if the political elite (who are the governors) agree on something; our constitution, despite being one of the best in the world, cannot protect us, the governed, from that decision. This should scare us tremendously.


The Jubilee 2017 Nairobi governor race has widened with the entrance of Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, who has joined Johnson Sakaja, Dennis Waweru and Bishop Margaret Wanjiru. All of them are my close friends so I will advice them jointly.

The Jubilee (and Cord) Nairobi governorship nomination will not be won at the ballot. It will be negotiated in a boardroom. This is because unlike the other 46 gubernatorial offices the Nairobi Governorship is a national office, due to budget and proximity to national power. It will therefore be negotiated right up there with the Presidency, Deputy Presidency, Speaker(s) and Leader of Majority. To get the Jubilee nomination a candidate must therefore add value to the President’s re-election; especially in national votes. The votes must also be outside what the President already has. Period.

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