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February 22, 2019

Chebukati a decoy who failed


A responsible babysitter knows what to do when a bee lands on the napkin of the child under her care. But the nurse of Kenya’s feeble democracy allowed the bee to sting.

When national returning officer Wafula Chebukati went to the Supreme Court seeking authority to ‘edit’ presidential results from the constituencies, he was being cheeky. The country is paying for his indecision.

The Supreme Court shirked responsibility when it could not raise quorum last week to arbitrate a matter of urgent public interest. The absconding judges betrayed public trust. The country is paying the price for this judicial desertion.

The bee stung the baby again on October 26. The country wasted another Sh12 billion, on top of the previous Sh54 billion, on a shambolic fresh presidential election. The county is wasting resources and lives that could have been saved by a responsible electoral leadership.

It is easy to do the right thing, but the babysitter prefers partisan puppetry. We are paying the price for narrow partisan politics, which is dominated by hubris.

Chebukati should have sought an extension of the date of a fresh presidential election. He should have gone to court to argue he could not guarantee a free and fair election in a poisoned environment. He did not. Exiled former IEBC commissioner Roselyn Akombe says Chebukati was overruled on this.

Chebukati failed to assert his authority as the chairman of the heavily funded IEBC. We are paying to park at a lot that cannot guarantee the security of our cars.

The IEBC had the support of stakeholders, which it squandered. The Supreme Court gave the IEBC a second chance, but the independent arbiter of elections mangled that opportunity.

The National Super Alliance gave the IEBC a roadmap to redemption. But NASA’s ‘irreducible minimums’ were spurned. NASA withdrew its presidential candidate Raila Odinga to give the IEBC time to organise a free and fair election, but Jubilee saw this as a plot for ‘nusu mkate’.

We are paying the price for contempt for democracy.

The buck stops with Chebukati — he is the boss. Chebukati said he did not want to leave a legacy of an IEBC chairman who bungled a presidential election. He stayed on to mangle democracy a second time.

What then do we make of the IEBC and Chebukati?

The IEBC has betrayed its independence. Its chairman is indecisive. The man cannot fact-check. The fumble of October 26 was telling: During the first IEBC briefing, he said the turn out was 48 per cent from 267 constituencies. This was downsized to 33 per cent — a moving target of political opportunism.

The election was not held in constituencies in four counties — Migori, Homa Bay, Kisumu and Siaya. The counties have 29 constituencies. Twenty-nine plus 267 is 296, which is four polling areas above the 292 constituencies. Two of these are Diaspora and Prisons.

Chebukati confessed earlier that he could not guarantee a free and fair election. The fresh one was a wasted opportunity, like the monumental bungle of the August 8 General Election.

Chebukati told the public he was always being outvoted on every issue at the commission. But he went through the motions to mess up a repeat election. He told the public four commissioners were compromising his mandate, but he stayed on to confirm he was not up to speed.

Chebukati was hired to lead a process he did not qualify to manage. The best candidate, Rose Odede, and eight others, were bypassed. Chebukati got a job for a mischievous value.

Chebukati was always a decoy. He was an ODM parliamentary aspirant during the primaries for the December 27, 2007, General Election. A mischievous IEBC secretariat, under CEO Ezra Chiloba, would deliver a fraudulent election, then pass the buck to Chebukati. The successful intervention of the Supreme Court changed the post-election narrative, which would have been ‘but Chebukati was an ODM member’.

Chebukati did not quit when he could. He can now wait for the noose, which is certain to come his way, as it did for his predecessors Samuel Kivuitu and Issack Hassan.

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