Confounding actions tell the story of a compromised IEBC

By every measure, IEBC Chair Wafula Chebukati is a good and honourable man. He’s qualified for the job. He’s temperate and thoughtful. He doesn’t throw bombs, or speak carelessly. He comports himself with dignity. His demeanor suggests a man who understands the gargantuan weight on his broad shoulders. As a student of history – even if an amateur one – he knows the indignities that dogged his last two predecessors.

The last one – Issack Hassan – was driven out ignominiously. Mr Hassan’s predecessor, the cankerous Samuel Kivuitu, mysteriously swore in a beleaguered “victor” under the cover of darkness. Mr Kivuitu would stagger to his death in infamy. Which begs the question – why would Mr Chebukati tempt fate knowing this cruel history?

It’s not my job to save Chebukati, or the IEBC, from the Sword of Damocles that hangs over their necks. But it’s my remit to save the country from them. I am forced to use this dramatic language because I can see – like everyone else – that Chebukati and the IEBC are careening towards the precipice. Except the cargo on their backs doesn’t belong to them.

Should they go over the cliff, we go down with them. After the 2007 elections, Kenya was destroyed. Truth be told, we have never recovered from the trauma of that demonic stanza. Some Africans on the continent were heard to cheekily say Kenya had now become an “African country.”

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Attempt to ban

That baptism by fire into the club of failed – or fragile – African states stands out as the most painful moment in our history. Like the DRC, and other basket cases, Kenya was put under the “receivership” of the ICC. The island of tranquility in a sea of chaos was lost – forever. This is why you should never play Russian roulette with the only country you have.

That single bullet in the chamber could end it all. Does Chebukati and his IEBC mandarins grasp the gravity of their responsibility? Methinks not. My crystal ball tells me the fat-cats at IEBC are like deer caught in the headlights. They increasingly look like a Jubilee cheer-leading squad than a solemn electoral body.

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Don’t take my word for it. Follow the evidence. Three recent confounding actions by the IEBC tell the story of a commission in the throes of compromise. If not, then the IEBC is singularly incompetent. It’s fumbling with the lives of Kenyans, and it needs to stop.

The first flummoxing action by the IEBC was the attempt to ban NASA’s Machakos gubernatorial candidate Wavinya Ndeti from the ballot. This headscratcher came after Ms Ndeti had resoundingly whipped her Wiper rival, the nondescript Bernard Kiala. Ndeti so convincingly beat Mr Kiala – a second time – that he barely registered on the Richter scale. Ndeti’s vote count suggested that she would eat Governor Alfred Mutua’s lunch early on August 8.

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Pundits and village wags throughout the country were left to deduce why the IEBC would seek to ban Ndeti. The smart money thought the IEBC was trying to protect Governor Mutua – a Wiper quisling and a Jubilee mole – from the indefatigable Ndeti. Justice George Odunga found for Ndeti in a ruling that was a nod to the popular will of the electors.

The IEBC’s action against Ndeti was either a fool’s errand, or a malignant partisan political decision. With days to go before the election, one would think Chebukati would spend the precious time left preparing for the polls instead of going down fruitless rabbit holes. But apparently he and his gang haven’t learnt their lesson.

A recent landmark ruling in the High Court held that the ballot count announced at the constituency was final. Translation – the IEBC has no power to alter through subtraction or addition the vote count declared at the constituency.

This “home rule” applies to elections in all mature democracies. Votes cast and declared at the polling and basic unit levels are final. Kenyans know that past elections have either been stolen, or tampered with, at the national tallying centre where numbers are cooked. Stunningly, the IEBC appealed that decision. It’s a strange coincidence – or not – that the Jubilee regime opposed the ruling and joined the appeal. This action by IEBC has virtually broken the proverbial camel’s back.

Dodgy deals

SEE ALSO: Lessons from IEBC's handling of 2017 poll

Lastly, there’s the matter of the firm IEBC has contracted to print ballot papers. NASA, civil society and press reports have tied the firm to dodgy deals elsewhere and to collusion with Jubilee. The smart thing for the IEBC would’ve been to re-tender the contract.

That’s because appearances are everything in an election. Whether or not the firm is dodgy or in collusion with one of the parties is beside the point. Wiping the slate clean and starting afresh would have restored the IEBC’s broken credibility.

- Prof Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua

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