Let's punish electoral offenders personally

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati is whisked away by security officers and the clergy after chaos erupted between Azimio and UDA leaders at the auditorium, Bomas of Kenya Aug 15, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

To mark the beginning of week two of the Supreme Court presidential election petition, allow me to offer a quote by Cicero: “Any person can make a mistake, but only an idiotic person persists in their error”.

Now let us replace ‘person’ with ‘country’.  In other words, if this petition does not provide an electoral re-set, a correction of our recurring mistakes, then we risk the persistence of a gross national error. I say this for three reasons.

The first reason is simple. The People’s Petition, before the Supreme Court, is a catalogue of crimes. Nothing less. Even more serious, is that these crimes are gross violations against the people of Kenya, including those of generations to come.

On the face of it, the extent of foul play in this election is crippling and devastating. Some of the charges played out publically even before the petition was filed.

A case in point is the Venezuelans whom the DCI tell us had access to critical and sensitive information about the IEBC. One official in particular, a Mr Castellano ostensibly had the capacity to add, delete, edit or manipulate information in any manner in the entire IEBC system.

As Paul Mwangi, Raila’s chief legal counsel has asserted, the August 2022 election was literally ‘stage-managed’. Mwangi’s assertion is bolstered by the content of the People’s Petition itself, John Githongo’s and other affidavits, and the Okiyah Omtatah petition.

The extent and scale of illegalities, leave alone the irregularities allegedly committed by the IEBC are unprecedented.

An IEBC Commissioner, Mr Justus Nyang’aya in his replying Affidavit, tells us that a foreigner digitally manipulated election results. The said person apparently accessed the server, pulled down results that had been uploaded from polling stations and later uploaded fresh ones.

Shockingly, this does not begin to cover the extent of the ‘catalogue of crimes’ brought before the Supreme Court.

The second reason why this petition must yield a reset is heavy: The crimes before the Supreme Court are self-perpetuating. This is a unique case where if the accused is indeed guilty and gets away scot-free, then the accused will thereafter perpetuate and entrench those very accusations.

He will do so not only because he will have the power to, but because he will need to do so to retain that power. The accused, if guilty and free, will be in a position to perform complete capture even of the very institution that is adjudicating the petition; The Supreme Court.

This logic enabled Kanu’s uninterrupted 24-year stint, Museveni’s 36 years and Paul Biya’s 40 years. You get the drift.

The third reason why this petition must result in a reset, is that it presents an opportunity for accountability and personal liability. It is time we moved away from accusing committees, commissions and institutions, to putting individuals on trial.

Since petitions have become a bona fide part of our electoral system, the investigatory, prosecutorial and judicial arms of government ought to follow through on execution of electoral crimes.

The credibility deficit in our electoral system can only be bridged if the cost of committing electoral offences is high for an individual, not an amorphous collective.

When you act against the people, the punishment must fit the crime. The IEBC chairman for instance, should not be able to hide behind the commission; his cross should be his personal to bear.

As the second week of the petition commences, may we proceed with the knowledge that any country can make mistakes, but choosing to persist in our errors will be the gravest mistake we ever make.

The writer is a political analyst and PhD student. Twitter: @daisymaina7