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October 20, 2017

Can we trust poll watchers?

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The right to know is jeopardised when ‘fake news’ competes for public attention with what audiences have always perceived as news. News is verifiable information, which is anchored in irrefutable facts.

The traditional name for ‘fake news’ is propaganda. Wikipedia, the mobile dictionary, defines propaganda as “information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular perception.”

Propaganda thrives in situations of conflict, such as the orchestrated stalemate following the Supreme Court nullification of results of the August 8 presidential election. The decision found the IEBC responsible for offences against democracy.

When the IEBC refused to open up its servers for scrutiny, it failed the transparency test. It cannot then be trusted to manage a simple, measurable and transparent process, as the law requires.

The petitioners, Raila Odinga and presidential running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, presented evidence of electoral offences for arbitration. The court found the electoral process massively flawed.

No one has taken responsibility for these illegalities and irregularities. The petitioners say they cannot, therefore, trust a manipulable IEBC to run free and fair elections.

NASA has named six employers of the IEBC who may have been used to muddy the presidential election. Ezra Chiloba, the chief executive officer, is the lead suspect. Others are Betty Nyabuto, deputy CEO; ICT director James Muhati, Immaculate Kissait, Praxedes Tororey and Moses Kipkogey.

Nyabuto’s name is likely to surface in other election-related petitions, especially in Homa Bay county. People said to be related to her were hired as returning officers, or presiding officers in Karachuonyo, Kabondo Kasipul, and Kasipul constituencies.

They had a godmother in Nairobi and a godhead at the Homa Bay county tallying centre, as shown in a petition by former Kasipul MP Joseph Oyugi Magwanga. The Magwanga petition shows an intricate IEBC network of vested interests that undermined the governor election as well. Magwanga ran as an independent candidate against incumbent Cyprian Awiti.

The Nairobi-Homa Bay cases disclose a cartel whose agenda goes beyond the 2017 General Election. NASA says the IEBC, as currently constituted, cannot conduct a free and fair election.

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati’s proposed ‘reform’ plan for October 17 repeat presidential election has Marjan Hussein Marjan as project team leader. Albert Gogo is ICT manager, Sydney Namulungu is head of operations, Nancy Kariuki is head of logistics, Bernard Misati is head of training, Silas Rotich is head of the national tallying centre, and Salome Oyugi is head of legal affairs.

Jubilee, which has hitherto insisted the IEBC should manage the repeat presidential election as the Supreme Court directed, has come up with new allegations. Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju names Marjan Hussein Marjan, Salome Oyugi, Decimah Mmayi, Chrispine Owiye, Joseph Ayatta, Joyce Ekuam, Tabitha Mutemi, Linus Onyango and Caroline Manyange as being ‘partisan’.

“We have received credible information that in the list are people known to be partisan. Given the fact that acts of omission or commission that rendered the elections null and void originated from IEBC staff, we hereby register our strong objection to the deployment of the above to be in a position to run the process,” Tuju wrote to Chebukati.

Tuju’s propaganda confirms NASA’s position that the IEBC, as is, cannot conduct a free and fair rerun. The infighting between Chebukati and Chiloba, the reported ruckus between Chebukati and Muhati over abuse of passwords, and the clash between the commissioners and the secretariat indicate a distracted IEBC.

The involvement of the Kenya Independent Commission Workers Union, and the Jubilee and NASA concerns, considered together, put the repeat presidential election in 33 days at risk. The country urgently needs a leadership that places the national interest above whimsical view of state power.

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