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September 20, 2018

IEBC squandering its reserve of public trust

IEBC officials.Photo/JOHN CHESOLI
IEBC officials.Photo/JOHN CHESOLI

Trust is not thrust upon an institution by legislation; it is earned. Trust is not bestowed upon an institution by a constitutional guarantee of operational independence; it is deserved.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is running out of time; it is also squandering public trust. This is not flattering six months to a polarizing elections.

IEBC cannot earn public trust through vacuous reactions to questions of complicity, duplicity, opacity, and orchestrated erroneous entries into the voter database.

Reacting to allegations of compromised voter register, last week, IEBC was fast on Twitter. "We strongly assure that the register of voters is not compromised or manipulated. We'll issue a detailed statement on issues just raised."

The 'issues' turned out President Daniel arap Moi and President Mwai Kibaki's ID numbers were used to register multiple voters, probably from the Lang'ata Cemetery. The long dead are registered voters. The majority of the irregular entries are names common in central Kenya.

Earlier Opposition Leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka reported their ID card numbers had been used to register other voters. Even fraud requires some intelligence. Anything less attracts suspicions.

There is much more to winning public trust than the IEBC's denials, admissions, promises, and hollow defenses. Neither do defenses from partisan State functionaries add any value to IEBC. If anything, such political and defensive reactions confirm public fear of puppetry and complicity.

IEBC does not need State protection. It needs to win public trust, through precise, simple, measurable, verifiable, and accurate deliverables. A critical mass of citizens, across the coalition divide, should have confidence in the umpire's ability to deliver free and fair elections.

Assorted dictionaries define trust as "belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective." Indispensable pillars of a trusted institution are its integrity, reliability, strength of character, consistency, history, and independence.

Institutional independence need not be belabored. It should be obvious to right thinking citizens. But every time IEBC defends itself against substantiated allegations with denials, it blurs its image in the estimation of right thinking citizens.

IEBC does not need a hawkish Aden Duale of the Jubilee coalition to declare its independence. Neither does IEBC need partisan Misi Mboko of Nasa to proclaim its complicity in fraudulent acts that clutter the path to the August 8, General Election.

How, for example, do you trust a public institution that makes one mistake 128,000 times? Then excuses this as a 'historical mistake'? Mistake for IEBC is another name for petty, thoughtless fraud.

IEBC has a budget of Sh19,000,000,000 to deliver free and fair elections for 43 million Kenyans. But with every exposure of fraudulent entries in the voter register, the agency confirms the public's worst fears: It's beholden to vested interests.

A simple e-membership of a party has default safeguards for what IEBC calls mistakes in the voter register dating from 2012. The party e-membership platform takes an ID number only ones. Try this, for example, Name#IDNo#County#Constituency#Ward#Polling Station - then SMS to 21147. Double entry returns the message: "Hi. ID number is already registered." Jubilee's red membership card is individuated.

IEBC considers Moi and Kibaki such eminent citizens it had to use their ID numbers to register 16 people, eight for each one. Such mischief does not invite trust. Such 'clerical errors' are cases of electoral fraud.

Taxpayers did not fund IEBC to make one mistake 2,000,000 times during the 2013 General Election. Allowing the errors of 2012, through to 2017, is impunity of the Isaak Hassan-type. And, why should IEBC wait for Raila Odinga to expose these 'clerical errors?'

Wafula Chebukati, you are fresh on the hot seat as IEBC chairman, earn your pay to restore public trust in the maligned electoral agency. It's too early to travel the comprised path of your predecessors.

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