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November 16, 2018

IEBC holds the key to a peaceful election

White card
White card

The success or failure of the 2017 General Election, which is 12 days away, lies in the hands of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. The referee should justify its constitutional mandate of conducting free and fair elections.

There are two choices for IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and his team: Do it right to reclaim public confidence in the ballot. Bungling the election will earn you a secure ticket to infamy, like your predecessors.

A bungled presidential election could set the country on a path of violence. You do not have to drag the country in that direction, no matter what your stake is in a possible fraud.

An impartial arbitration of the polarising contest for power will secure the peace by reclaiming national hope in the ballot. The country expects nothing more, nothing less than a national duty guided by the rule of law. You are paid to do what is right. For this, your commission enjoys the protection of the Constitution and heavy public funding.

Chebukati and his team have lessons to draw from. Much of this experience brought shame, deaths, and dispossession to the people who were denied the freedom to make independent choices.

Chebukati and the IEBC know what the Constitution mandates them to do. But they also know what the power clique may be forcing them to do. You are not beholden to individuals who crave power at any cost. Your allegiance is to the people.

You can yield to the pressure of the power clique or work for the national interest. If you choose to serve vested interests, you shall suffer rejection, and a fast slide into depression and oblivion.

You shall enjoy the jeers for a man who destroyed the hopes of the people in democracy. You may follow the post-career path of your predecessors Samuel Kivuitu, and Isaack Hassan, the boisterous public servant you replaced.

If you defend the national interest, you shall enjoy public respect. You shall have earned your place in the history of a country that seeks to break away from a tradition of bungled elections. You still have time to make up your mind. You also have lessons to draw from to save your necks, souls, and the credibility of the IEBC. A reminder to your team of the fortunes of your predecessors will do:

Sunday, December 25, 2007, exposed the gullibility of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, the predecessor of the IEBC. The supposedly independent arbiter of elections spent the three months preceding the December 27, 2007, General Election denying a hideous plot to rig the presidential election.

Kivuitu denied every claim the opposition made, irrespective of the facts. But Kivuitu’s body language betrayed complicity, as the events of that Sunday, two days to the ballot, showed.

The PNU of President Mwai Kibaki had deployed Administration Police as election agents. Buses ferrying the curious passengers began leaving Nairobi that Sunday afternoon.

The lie was exposed when the public began flushing out passengers from the buses in Kericho. Some jumped out of the buses and disappeared as information on attacks on their colleagues spread.

The passengers were heading to opposition ODM strongholds in Western Kenya. Some of the victims of abuse of power were flushed out of hotels in Kakamega, Kisumu and Mombasa.

Back in Nairobi, the huge deployment of security forces around the Kenyatta International Convention Centre was sending the signal this was not an ordinary election. The status quo was hell-bent on subverting the will of the people. Meanwhile, Kivuitu parroted ‘free and fair election’ at every turn to a cynical public. Democracy had been militarised.

Denials came easily to the lips of the patronising Kivuitu. Beholden to the Kibaki establishment, Kivuitu opted to serve vested interests. Kivuitu swore in Kibaki, even as the ECK chairman confessed he did not know who had won.

A decade later, and on the eve of another election, the IEBC should know Kenyans have been through this. Then AP commandant Kinuthia Mbugua, now Nakuru Governor, knows how security agents were conscripted as PNU agents in 2007.

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