By Osman Sheikh Abdirahman:
It has become fashionable lately for politicians across the political divide to attack the IEBC left right and centre. Whereas it’s anybody’s right to critique any independent regulatory agency like IEBC, the criticism should be objective and one that will help improve the commission’s role in delivering its mandate to Kenyans.
The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), the now defunct commission that was disbanded by the 10th parliament in 2008 conducted fairly free and transparent elections in both the 2002 general elections and the subsequent 2005 referendum but miserably failed to do the same in the 2007 general elections. This was largely because of how the commission was casually constituted prior to the 2007 elections. The ECK was acrimoniously disbanded after the widely contested 2007 election results and the 2008 post-election violence. The then chairman of the commission the late Samual Kivuitu bitterly complained of the casual manner in which the government recruited the new commissioners but was ignored by all and sundry.
The current commissioners were recruited competitively during the grand coalition government where both the president and the opposition leader were major stakeholders and therefore, it is hard to believe the commission favors any of the protagonists. Moreover the commissioners were recruited when the country was smartening from the post-election violence and by design they are largely drawn from the minority communities in the country reducing their interest in the presidential elections which is invariably hotly contested.
It is not practical to disband the Electoral commission every five years after a general election as this will definitely kill institutional memory and moral of the commissioners. It can’t be that every commission that is put up is hell- bent on rigging the elections in favor of a particular political party or candidate. The commission is just but a referee in a political contest. There is a saying in Somali language that a camel beaten by a left- handed man has no safe side. This means the herder can easily strike with both hands. The commission is beaten from both sides by the government and the opposition. The government is starving it of cash while the opposition is constantly threatening it with disbandment.
In the 2013 elections we can vividly recall how the BVR machines and other election materials were procured few months to the elections because funds were not availed to the commission in time and the commission had hard time training its staff on the usage of the machines. This was a big setback.
In the just concluded massive voter registration, the commission could not bring many voters into its electoral roll because of its shoe string budget. We cannot therefore have our cake and eat it. Since we are all gearing up for a free fair and transparent elections, we need to support the commission and boost its moral. After all the current political leadership is in office courtesy of IEBC who have carried out a record number of elections in the history of the country due to the many elective office holders created by the constitution. That is not to say the commission is blameless and there is need for the commission to speak up and come out compellingly on its role as independent entity free from any sort of interference from any party.
We have less than nine months to the election year and we are time barred to yet again disband the current commission and put together another commission to oversee the next general election. It is therefore paramount to make the best out of the current commission and support it fully in discharging its mandate. The commission is equally duty bound to see to it that we have a credible, free, fair and transparent general elections devoid of any interference perceived or real.
The writer comments on topical political and social issues. He can be reached on his email: Osmanabdirahman@yahoo.co.uk