Integrity vetting isn't a lost cause for voters

Voters queue to cast their votes at NSSF grounds in Nairobi during the general elections in 2017. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Not so long ago, I predicted that the integrity vetting of the men and women vying in this year’s polls would come a cropper. It has now come to pass.

Apart from graft and murder suspects lining up for plum offices come August 9, there are Standard Seven and Form Two dropouts with ‘miracle’ degrees firmly in the race for governorship. That they could win is a no-brainer. The Wafula Chebukati-led Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has overtly said - not once - that there’s zero chance it can do to stop ‘tainted’ individuals from contesting.

Director of Public Prosecutions Nordin Haji and Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission chief Twalib Mbarak, on the other hand, have stood their ground that they shouldn’t run. But theirs is a wish akin to trying to milk a crocodile. These agencies have been blowing hot and cold on integrity vetting in some kind of ‘who will bell the cat’ fashion. But more and more, legal loopholes have worked to the advantage of political cranks. In Twalib’s words, we have a problem and the law is one of them. 

A worried Haji, at a prosecutors’ conference on Tuesday, spoke against impeached politicians and those with active court cases contesting. He says it is a mockery of the law for such people to get a through pass to public office. The double-edged sword of presumption of innocence has carried the day but at a heavy cost. It shocks why agencies would be a creation of the law but the very law makes mincemeat out of them! Chapter Six doesn’t seem enforceable and those with questionable inclinations are having the best time. Something has to give way.   

The thing is, the sanctity of public office and our future are at stake. At this rate, we should brace for worse deviations from what we expect of leaders. On polling day, we will expose ourselves the risky behaviours and influences — tenderpreneurs, wheeler-dealers, grabbers and mungiki-style village champions bring elected.  

What next now? In my view, voters have a window to vet aspirants. With a little sobriety and ‘collective conscience’, we can desist from voting blindly. Now that the watchdogs have been outfoxed, voters must do their own due diligence and stand on guard. But the danger would be the influence of money and tribe which sway voter judgment. Evil politicians are often protected in the name of ‘mtu wetu.’ We’ve often heard of ‘our community is being targeted.’   

If we wish to deter future scandals and occupation of powerful political seats by misfits, the public must reject every blemished individual. It is not to say they are guilty. Let them clear their names before anything else. It is not only a matter of the law but also conscience. We must escape the danger of ‘garbage in garbage out.’ Sadly though, many Kenyans hold scandalous leaders in high esteem. Some package themselves as self-made achievers. They are seen to be high go-getters.

At this point and going forward, the big dilemma rests in how to make leadership and integrity requirements (Chapter 6) achievable. This doesn’t have to deny anyone their fundamental rights. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights offers a good reference. The once robust citizens’ assemblies or bunge la wananchi should return if they will be an ample avenue for the people to achieve unanimity against wolves in sheep’s skin seeking public office.

Religious groups must add their voices to this debate. Instead of adoring the political elite because of their cash, the pulpit should be used as a powerful voice to demand accountable leadership. Voters are on their own and must now take up the vetting role seriously.     

The writer is an editor at The Standard. Twitter

Premium State's fuel import deal rattles industry, but no cheap fuel yet
Premium Why electricity keeps getting more expensive
By Brian Ngugi 49 mins ago
Premium After Goldenberg, Pattni now linked to Zimbabwe gold smuggling syndicate
Time to adopt strict vigilance on mobile security threats
The Standard
Get unlimited access to The Standard website!