Opening IEBC servers will bolster, not weaken, our democracy

Azimio leader Raila Odinga. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

Who won the 2022 Presidential election? Of course, we have the Kenya Kwanza government in place, so the winner is in office. However, that is exactly the contestation. Legal fulfilment is not enough to form a legitimate government when doubt is cast on the vote tallying, questionable activities leading to the announcement and the condescending attitude of the Supreme Court in rendering its verdict on who won the 2022 presidential election.

In fact, we welcome the conditional ceasefire between the government and the opposition side. Each side was extremely guarded in giving the bipartisan parliamentary approach a chance. Beyond words, the tone of the ceasefire speeches was considerably pessimistic amidst the determination to find an amicable solution. On a positive side, even in that negativity, the two sides ceded ground to give a chance to structure conversations, which should not be taken for granted given that the country risks sliding into lawlessness.

All grievances and their corresponding interests considered the outstanding concern is that Kenyans are never sure who wins the presidential election for as far back as 2007 when the Kriegler Commission failed to identify who won the bitterly contested election that year. Worse, a section of Kenyans have normalised electoral confusion. For instance, there is a deepening belief among some Kenyans that Baba lost to a shrewd politician. Ironically, some voters among those now in power boast of the same belief. 

When in 2017 the question “Who won the Presidential election?” was put to the Supreme Court, Justice David Maraga and his team stood out to be counted when it mattered most. He said the process was flawed and sent the teams back to the ballot. This time around, the bipartisan committee will have to answer the question. Dwelling on other issues will be important but secondary. If anything, immediate former President Uhuru Kenyatta together with Opposition Leader Raila Odinga formed the much erroneously discredited Building Bridges Initiative which is, in all probability, where the proposed bipartisan dialogue will end up.

We need to go beyond blocking and thinking of alternatives at the mention of “opening the servers” to see that the rightful owner of the 2022 presidential election outcome should be duly recognised and supported, be it the Kenya Kwanza government or the opposition. There is nothing paralysing in swapping roles if that is what the outcome of opening the server leads to. With the spirit of statesmanship, the seemingly impossible complexities of swapping roles should not blind us from seeking true healing and reconciliation through our rich African conflict resolution mechanisms. If the results are upheld, we should counsel and educate the Azimio coalition and its leaders on what democracy is all about.

For Kenya to come out of the cyclic presidential election dispute, let us use this 2022 presidential result to sort out our perennial electoral mess. Who won the presidential election in 2022? Answering this question as honestly as possible, with a spirit of patriotism, commitment to justice, respect for human dignity and assurance that every vote counts will result in peace that we all need. Let’s face the demon. Arguably, no reform agenda will move our country forward without answering the question.

Lesson from the US. Donald Trump tried to incite Americans against the win of Joe Biden. The functioning governance systems of the US are still investigating him. Americans are not letting go nor forming bipartisan committees to “dialogue”. The international community in Kenya should use the same spirit to get to the bottom of who actually won the election last year so that its heavily funded commitment to the rule of law and entrenched principles of democracy in Kenya are rooted. 

Dr Mokua is executive director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication.

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