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November 21, 2018

Appalling lack of poll readiness a recipe for disaster

Kenyans queue at a registration centre as mass voter registration kicked off across the country on Monday, January 16, 2017. /COURTESY
Kenyans queue at a registration centre as mass voter registration kicked off across the country on Monday, January 16, 2017. /COURTESY

 There was a time in this country when, if desperate herdsmen invaded private ranches and started an orgy of destruction, you could be fairly sure the GSU would quickly move in to end the aggression.

Likewise, if there was famine, the government would be quick to display just how much it was doing to ensure no Kenyan died of starvation.

Given what we have seen of the government's breathtakingly ineffective response to these unexpected events resulting from a natural disaster, drought, we should not be surprised at the masses of evidence the IEBC is nowhere near ready to deliver a free, fair and credible election come August 8.

To take just one example, consider the matter of “cleaning up” the voter register to “weed out” the reported legions of “ghost voters” said to be millions of men and women who died long before the 2013 election, but still managed to cast a vote. And indeed, remain on the voter's register to this day.

Has there been any clear indication of how this is to be resolved?

Whenever leading Kenyan politicians speak to the public, promises of “setting up structures and systems” which we are supposed to believe will promptly facilitate “delivery of services” feature prominently in their rhetoric.

Whether it is opposition leaders accusing the government of having failed in this regard. Or those in government claiming to have very effectively succeeded in providing these systems and structures. The consensus is that this is what Kenya really needs institutions that work and deliver what was promised or intended.

Well, in a non-election year, most of us don't give any thought to the electoral commissioners or their secretariat.

But with an election approaching, few institutions are more important right now than the IEBC.

And we all should be deeply worried that to all appearances the IEBC does not seem poised to give us a credible election. There are too many unanswered questions, unresolved issues.

Kenya has only thrived to the extent that it has at all because at critical junctures, both leaders and ordinary people have been able to focus single-mindedly on making the difficult decisions needed to avert looming disaster.

The time has come to face the fact that in the IEBC's inadequate and incomplete poll arrangements we have a catastrophe in the making, demanding a concerted joint effort to resolve.

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