Failing to investigate Bomas chaos is doing democracy a disservice

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]

By any measure, the August 2022 General Election was one of the most peaceful in Kenya's multiparty democracy era. But like all our elections, it was not without a blemish.

At the tail end of a largely peaceful exercise, just when Kenyans were awaiting the declaration of the presidential results, ugly scenes played out at the Bomas of Kenya that shocked the entire country and beyond.

Hundreds of visitors, including foreign dignitaries, who had come to witness the historic moment, witnessed kicks, blows and seats fly when tempers flared at Bomas, the presidential vote tallying centre. The resultant fracas compelled security officers to whisk Mr Wafula Chebukati, Chairman of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), to safety.

But perhaps because of the pain inflicted on them by the violent aftermath of the disputed 2007 general elections, ordinary citizens did not let the fight at Bomas spill over into the streets. Kenyans must be lauded for their political maturity.

They could have emulated the attack on Capitol Hill by supporters of Donald Trump who claimed he was rigged out in the US elections in 2021, or the January 8, 2023 attack on the Brazilian Congress by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro while protesting a supposedly stolen election.

Months after the election, it is now emerging that there was more to what we saw at Bomas than meets the eye. All long, the opposition has maintained that the election was rigged in favour of Dr Ruto and has repeatedly called for an audit of the elections. This is notwithstanding the Supreme Court's ruling in a petition filed by the opposition that Dr Ruto won fairly.

On the other hand, no less a person than President Ruto has claimed there were attempts to rig the election in favour of Raila Odinga. The president has alleged that the plot by senior government officials under the Jubilee administration was not just to steal the election, but to abduct and kill Chebukati.

These are serious allegations that cannot be swept under the carpet. Yet prudence also dictates that such allegations cannot be taken as the gospel truth. Allegations by both sides of the political divide fly in the face of calls for healing and unifying the nation. They are akin to twisting a knife in a wound that had started to heal.

Our leaders, and indeed all Kenyans, cannot continue nursing grudges while praying for healing. It is for this reason that a commission of inquiry should be set up to get to the bottom of the maze that was the 2022 General Election. If we do nothing, those bent on undermining our democracy might get emboldened. Importantly, action should be taken against the people who caused chaos at Bomas last year.

In our national desire to unearth the truth, it would serve us well to settle on a non-partisan team comprising of members from friendly nations, to investigate this matter. Given the partisan nature of our politics and the urge to push vested interests, a commission made up entirely of local players might not win public trust.

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