A Fair and Impartial IEBC chair?

Can we have an impartial IEBC chair?
Can we have an impartial IEBC chair?

When President-elect Donald Trump was in the middle of his campaign, a political analyst in the US said Trump lied like a thug, daring anyone to challenge him, while Hillary Clinton was more nuanced in her lying, leaving room to explain away the lie, being the good lawyer she is.

The same can be said about the men who have been at the helm of our electoral agencies since 2002, the first and last time Kenya had what may be described as a fair and transparent general election: In that year, the then highly regarded and now late Samuel Kivuitu presided over the Electoral Commission of Kenya, which oversaw the euphoric elections of 2002 when Kenyans overwhelmingly rejected Uhuru Kenyatta, now President. He was then seen as President Daniel Moi project, and the voters wanted none of it.

Fast-forward to the 2007 and 2013 general elections and one cannot but conclude the Kivuitu who chaired the ECK in 2007 goes down in history as having presided over the most flagrant, in-your-face rigging of an election and, worse one who, like a thug, dared anyone to challenge him.

For his part, when Issack Hassan was selected to chair the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in 2011, he presided over questionable elections in 2013, where the rigging may not have been as in your face as was the case in 2007 but, like the smooth lying by Clinton, giving herself plenty of room to wiggle away, Hassan, too, pulled off serious rigging with plenty of room to explain away much of the irregularities that took place.

To you Jubilee supporters, you have to be intellectually honest and accept there was rigging in 2013, albeit much less so than there was in 2007 and to you ODM supporters, you too have to be intellectually honest and accept the fact that Raila Odinga could not have won in a rerun with Uhuru, simply because Uhuru had a far more mobilised voter base and superior logistics than him.

That being the case, namely having two elections back-to-back presided over by questionable characters — Kivuitu with the ECK and Hassan with the oxymoronically named “Independent” Electoral and Boundaries Commission — there’s nothing “independent” about the electoral agencies.

The last two chairmen of the electoral commissions that are supposed to be independent, fair and impartial made sure the agencies were anything but the opposite.

Many remember Kivuitu saying he didn’t know who won the elections in 2007, which was understandable given the level of denial he was in. Hassan knows who won in 2013.

Maybe he, unlike Kivuitu, will in old age admit and tell the truth. That’s neither here nor there.

Right now, there’s a task at hand as once again the powers that be must appoint someone to head the IEBC. Hassan was picked in part because he came from a minority group not previously associated with corruption only for him to eviscerate that notion.

Having run out of options, namely given we have now established that individuals from the minority or marginalised communities can be just as corruptible as those from any of the major tribes, it’s pointless to eliminate someone merely on the basis they come from a tribe representing one of the two major political rivals in Kenya as the nominating panel and others erroneously have done.

Rather, what’s needed is finding a fair minded, incorruptible and preferably an intellectual driven by doing what’s right for the country and not what’s in their pocket or tribal interests.

We have men and women like these in this country — not too many for sure — but we have a few.

The onus is on those charged with the responsibility of finding one to do so and with urgency for, surely, we don’t want the IEBC once again being led by those capable of smiling at us while bludgeoning our feeble democracy to death, if not creating forces that literally kill Kenyans.

The writer is a legal expert and political commentator based in the United States