Let us all ready ourselves for the General Election

A woman casting her vote at St Patrick's Shimoni Primary School in Eldama Ravine during UDA nominations. April 14, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

There have been concerns by a cross-section of Kenyans in the recent past on whether the agencies entrusted to midwife the upcoming General Election are well prepared, and more particularly the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). 

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops is also on record as having raised the same concerns. These observations are critical, but as we approach the elections, perhaps we should expand these concerns and interrogate a wider cross-section of stakeholders.

Are we as voters ready for the General Election? This is a soul-searching question we must ask ourselves. Kenyans have been praying for a peaceful General Election and their desire is a violence-free exercise.

Violence has been the unfortunate outcome of many general elections before, and a path we must avoid by all means. Voter preparedness includes being steadfast against incitement by politicians into violence and hatred.

Voter preparedness also includes resisting bribery, whether in cash or in kind, for instance, by using food items to influence our voting. It includes refusal to vote along tribal lines but rather on the merits and values espoused by the candidates.

It includes careful consideration of the promises made including taking time to understand the manifestos of the candidates. It includes having the wisdom to differentiate between pre-election falsehoods and solid development agendas presented to us.

It is very telling when leading candidates exude confidence on the votes they shall garner based on tribal numbers from different regions. It is commonplace to see analysts calculate percentages that candidates purportedly command based on the tribal composition of regions. Are our voting patterns so predictably tribal?

Likewise, we must also ask ourselves: is the church prepared to offer spiritual guidance before, during and after the elections?

Generally speaking, yes. And in as much as I cannot speak on behalf of all the churches in Kenya, the Catholic Church is always ready to offer spiritual guidance.

Regrettably, in most cases what the church says is not listened to. Through her press statements, the church articulates pertinent issues on the state of the nation.

As the conscience of the nation, the church points out areas of concern, the shortcomings in our political system and the dangers that face our country when the rules governing our electoral processes are not adhered to.

The church also goes beyond that. It is the place where people take refuge, especially in the unfortunate instances of election violence. Refuge not only for shelter, but for solace.

Equally important is preparedness of the IEBC to deliver a free and fair election. The IEBC needs to assure Kenyans that they shall deliver.

There are issues around voter registration and claims that many voters’ names are missing in the registers that must be addressed.

It is imperative that IEBC is given all that it requires in terms of personnel and resources to avoid a recurrence of complaints raised in previous elections. Are the aspirants prepared to compete fairly and sincerely? One would hope that all the aspirants are men and women of integrity.

However, if the recent primaries to determine party candidates are anything to go by, then there are serious doubts regarding their preparedness.

Complaints of election cheating and rigging were reported from virtually all corners of the republic. It seems it is now an accepted culture to use ‘any and all means possible’ to win elections.

But for the aspirants, it goes a step further. Are they ready to accept defeat graciously and claim victory honourably? Unfortunately, most aspirants find it difficult to accept defeat. During the recent primaries, we witnessed how those defeated opted to become independent candidates. 

Many of these simply refused to accept defeat, perhaps disillusioned by the crowds they attracted that did not eventually translate into votes. It is unfortunate that most aspirants will not honourably accept defeat - and from experience these are the most likely to instigate violence.

And finally, there are other key players like the local administration. It is difficult to ascertain how prepared they are. There is the perception and allegation that local administrators may be influenced by the so-called “deep state” to favor the pro-establishment candidates.

It is absolutely necessary for all civil servants to remain impartial and fulfill their duties without favouring any candidate or any side of the political divide.

A word of encouragement for the IEBC: It enjoys protection of the Constitution. It should discharge its mandate without fear or favour. What is at stake is the destiny and peace of our nation. The goal is to deliver free, fair and credible elections. IEBC should not sway from that solemn goal.  

 Bishop Dominic Kimengich

Catholic Diocese of Lodwar