Calls are coming from all quarters for the IEBC Commissioners to be bundled out of office. Leading in this chorus is CORD under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Raila Amollo Odinga, a veteran humans rights crusader and the champion of the second liberation. His contention? The current IEBC Commissioners cannot be trusted to handle the 2017 General Elections in Kenya.
Raila Odinga has vied for Presidency since 1997 and has lost every time. In 1997 he conceded defeat and decided to join KANU Government that he managed to wreck from inside, a political move that handed former President Mwai Kibaki the Presidency in 2002. After Raila fell out with Kibaki in 2005, he again vied for the Presidency in 2007 that he lost, declined to accept defeat, and the consequence was the 2007/2008 post election violence. After the 2007/2008 post election violence, Raila found himself back into Kibaki’s Government as the country’s Prime Minister from where he was able to work with Kibaki to deliver to us a new constitution, a constitution that was supposed to seal the loopholes that led to his 2007 fatal loss.
The 2010 constitution created what we now have as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of Kenya, an independent body whose commissioners were competitively selected and sworn in office in November 2011, a commission that handled the 2013 General Elections that saw Raila lose once again. Raila contested the loss all the way to the Supreme Court but the Supreme Court’s verdict was that the elections were free and fair despite acknowledging facts such as massive irregularities in the procurement of election materials and a massive technological hitch that interfered with both voter verification and transmission of results – technically therefore, the 2013 General Elections were not free and fair.
After swallowing the bitter pill delivered by the Supreme Court, Raila decided to attempt to seal further loopholes in the 2010 constitution through the Okoa Kenya Movement, a movement that reached a dead end when the IEBC rejected the Okoa Kenya list of 1.6 million signatures. After IEBC rejected those signatures, Raila’s latest approach is to demand, through demonstrations, picketing and possibly mass action, for IEBC Commissioners to be bundled out of office, by force.
Is Raila justified in demanding that the IEBC Commissioners be bundled out of office? The answer is NO, at least in the short term. Raila’s demands for the IEBC Commissioners to be ejected from office assumes that the contentious results of the 2013 General Elections were a sole creation of the current IEBC Commissioners. That they were the ones who decided to corruptly procure inefficient technologies that would later fail, and that it was through their discretion to interfere with the transmission of the results thereby allowing them to revert to the old mistrusted manual tallying process that caused the 2007/2008 post election violence. These allegations could be true, but if Raila is pushing for the IEBC Commissioners to be bundled out of office based on those, then he is missing the point.
Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the current IEBC Commissioners were and are still the problem that will not allow Raila win the 2017 General Elections free and square, this assumption ignores a fact that there are major roles played by political forces of the status quo that influence independent bodies e.g. IEBC Commissioners to behave in particular ways or carry out specific illegitimate activities. For example, if the IEBC Commissioners were influenced to rig the 2013 General Elections in favor of Jubilee, what would make it impossible for any new commissioner to succumb to the same influences when the loopholes that allowed the IEBC Commissioners to be corrupted in the first place still exist?
The reason Raila and CORD cannot expect any better commissioners is because Kenya is a rotten society. Kenya is a society that operates in dishonesty and corruption – a society where the corrupt would rather die than resign – a society where those accused of committing the most heinous economic and other crimes are rewarded with the best of plum jobs this country can offer.
A Kenyan who tries to live beyond reproach cannot survive in this society – be it in the low slum life or in the highest of offices. Take the situation surrounding the immediate Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioners as examples – when Kenyans in high places felt that the commissioners were indeed serious about fighting corruption, a war was ignited in the EACC that saw all commissioners vacate office – then the Kenyans in low places did nothing about it.
If Kenya was the opposite. If Kenya was country that does not tolerate corruption. A society that values Ethics. A country where no criminal or those with questionable criminal characteristics can hold office, then all or most of the current IEBC Commissioners could have voluntarily resigned just by the mere mention of the chickengate scandal in the UK courts. Actually that’s even very recent. In a free, ethical, upright and law abiding country, the mere verdict by the Supreme Court that the procurement of 2013 General Elections materials were corruptly done could have seen many in the IEBC spend sleepless nights in jail.
So No, the approach Raila is taking as an attempt to resolve the problems with the IEBC will not solve anything – unless he has a new set of Kenyans brought in from Jupiter or Neptune.
I hope we agree that changing the commissioners is nothing but fighting the symptoms. Changing the laws too will not resolve the root cause of our predicament with IEBC as the corrupt will always find a workaround. Remember they have been able to workaround the IFMIS and that’s why scandals like NYS cannot be resolved effectively. So what should be the solution for the current IEBC problems? The permanent solution is getting a ruthless, fearless, incorruptible, patriotic Kenyan in the Presidency – something similar to what Tanzanians currently have in Magufuli (at least before he changes).
Kenya needs a Kenyan who will not blame long winding legal processes as the stumbling block that prevent him from ensuring those accused of corruption rot in jail but a Kenyan who will do everything within his executive powers to send every big headed rotten fish and their small counterparts to the confinement of Kamiti Maximum prison. Until that can miraculously happen, someone to tell Raila to let the IEBC Commissioners be.