Change electoral laws to avoid chaos during polls
By Cornel Rasanga
| November 18th 2019
Have you ever linked some of Kenya’s social, economic and political problems to election campaigns? In case you have never, then you are mistaken. You ought to be reminded of what a Western diplomat said ahead of the 2013 General Election: “Choices have consequences”.
Events of the recent past vindicate the diplomat, who was heavily vilified over the statement. Some of the consequences are too gruesome to comprehend and one wonders how long Kenyans will continue to watch stone-throwing political leaders incite and divide the country into tribal enclaves during elections.
A few leaders are behind the ethnic division, suspicion, hatred, gender disparity, discrimination and corruption.
It is sad that it is hard for a political aspirant to be elected in a region where a majority of the people do not speak his or her language.
Even past presidential candidates, with the exception of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, contested parliamentary elections in their village constituencies. Ironically, we are a democracy that is supposed to be cohesive, tolerant and united.
Electoral statutes, as currently drafted, are prone to abuse and cannot produce credible and selfless leaders like the late founding fathers of South Africa and Tanzania, Nelson Mandela and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere respectively.
For Kenya to avert a recurrence of electoral chaos, the Political Parties Act and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Act should be reformed.
Proportional representation seems to be the best alternative cure for election-related problems. Under the system, voters choose parties instead of individuals who could be men and women of questionable integrity.
Party nominees, matching the number of slots in the constituencies and wards across the country, should serve a term without interruption in any of the electoral units.
Under the system, inclusivity would not be negotiable because parties would be obliged to meet their part of the bargain in the irrevocable nomination list filed with the electoral commission ahead of the polls. Elusive gender parity and special groups would be achieved with relative ease.
The politically instigated violence in the just concluded Kibra by-election could have been avoided in a proportional representation system.
Name-calling dominated a campaign presided over by Deputy President William Ruto.
Acrimonious verbal exchanges between Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga helped inflame passions.
Insults were hurled and obscenities uttered in the by-election to replace the late Ken Okoth.
The recurrence of electoral violence in 2017 and subsequent poll-related problems was, to say the least, a daunting challenge to the collective leadership of this country. This re-opened old wounds and the fresh ones won’t heal any time soon. The 2022 Uhuru succession campaigns are likely to take a similar direction.
It is in view of the foregoing that Uhuru and Raila, the sons of the country’s founding fathers, swallowed their pride, said Kenya is bigger than all of us and sought to seek home-grown solutions for our problems.
Amidst loud criticism by those who prefer the status quo whose comfort zone could be disturbed by the looming radical changes, the two leaders formed a team known as the Building Bridges Initiative task force to diagnose the country’s endless problems, more so those caused by elections.
It is time we looked back and asked when the rain started beating us. The 1964 merger of State and government led by one person with massive powers was a fatal mistake.
Dissolution of opposition parties, the abolition of the Senate and letting the Executive and State Law Office handle elections was the climax of reverses in the gains aptly captured in the Independence Treaty of 1963.
Each Kenyan election has had its share of chaos, but the 2007 presidential poll was the bloodiest in living memory. The report of the international mediation team led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan bares the consequences of that violence.
The wounds inflicted by the 2007 General Election were reopened before the ink dried on the signatures of the principals; President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga on the National Accord on Peace and Reconciliation on February 28, 2008.
Reports of South African retired judge Johanns Kriegler on the disgraced Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) and Justice Philip Waki on post-election violence endorsed the findings of the mediators.
At stake today are legacies of Uhuru and Raila. They can make or break Kenya. That is why they chose to form the BBI so that they can leave behind a more united country.
Mr Rasanga is Governor, Siaya County
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