Infighting between commissioners of the Independent, Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) must cease to avert a constitutional crisis as the country prepares for a repeat presidential election on October 17.
In the last one week, Kenyans have watched in disbelief, then trepidation as commissioners tried to discredit each other not long after the Supreme Court invalidated results of the presidential elections on account of misconduct by officers of the electoral agency. Regrettably, the conflict has expanded to engulf the IEBC secretariat with some of its officers now blatantly disregarding instructions from its leadership.
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati is increasingly facing resistance from members of his team and politicians over the method he is using to clean up house to comply with the Supreme Court order. It has now become apparent that members of the commission have taken sides in the political contest between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his challenger Raila Odinga of NASA. This does not bode well for the country at a time voters are preparing to go the polls in 37 days.
Because of the infighting, it will be a tall order for the IEBC to convince voters that it will be an impartial arbiter on October 17. However, the IEBC still has a window to close ranks and present a united front. Its commissioners must be guided by history as they contemplate their future actions.
In 2007, misconduct on the part of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, the predecessor of the IEBC, largely contributed to the violent upheaval after results of the presidential elections were announced. At the time, ballot stuffing and inflating of votes were so extensive that one investigative commission noted that it was impossible to tell who between the incumbent Mwai Kibaki and Raila won that election.
We must not allow history to repeat itself. Chebukati must, therefore, marshal his troops and show leadership. He and his commissioners must seize this opportunity to redeem themselves before it is too late.