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Chebukati should stop singing his own dirge

By Mark Oloo | May 31st 2020

In the movie industry, a bad actor has immense power to make or break the experience of a show. There are those who place you at the edge of your seat filled with perfect suspense, while others let your thoughts stroll into emptiness and boredom.

American Sandra Bullock made history when she was crowned best actress at the Oscars in 2010, just a day after receiving the Golden Raspberry for worst actress in 'All about Steve'. What a mishmash of feats! Then there’s the story on one Wafula Chebukati, the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Mr Chebukati is an actor up the creek leading a key agency lost in the woods.

I am talking about the chairman of a constitutional commission who gives off the image of one who cares little about his failed leadership, the blunders of his agency, its battered image and the bleak future it faces.

Under Chebukati’s watch, IEBC has moved from one grievous mistake to another. Its leadership has no qualms about the inexcusable tragedy of errors. Just when you thought his conscience would make him willingly quit, he has stayed put, perhaps buoyed by the fact that Kenyans’ memory can sometimes be as short as the lifespan of a gob of saliva.

On October 17, 2017, Chebukati announced to the chagrin of Kenyans that he could not guarantee the credibility of the October 26, 2017 elections. His speech had all the signs of a man in despair. Nonetheless, he declared his determination “to make this commission work”. It is yet to work.

A day after the sham repeat poll, the IEBC chairman declared the very results he had expressed doubts about. All result-relaying electronic devices failed and the IEBC servers later refused to open. The rest is history, like the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah that went wild before the fire.

One chilly Wednesday afternoon in September 2018, Chebukati sprang up to announce at a post-election evaluation forum in Nairobi that he was happy with the conduct of the 2017 polls. He sang his own praises, saying out of 300 petitions filed in courts arising from the election, only 25 had succeeded. He had quickly forgotten the blunders of his officers.

Shortly before, a tiff between him and former CEO Ezra Chiloba exploded, and the comedy of the resignation and return to office of three commissioners ensued. In the confusion, IEBC staff began carting away crucial files from the agency's finance and procurement departments.

This month, Chebukati and the remaining two commissioners are at it again. IEBC uploaded faulty elections data on its website only to recall it after public uproar. And since Chiloba’s exit, the agency operates without a substantive CEO.

When all is said and done, Chebukati should remember no amount of drama and make-believe acts will restore IEBC’s image. Disbanding it will spare Kenyans the agony of such an incompetent commission.

The big lie

Chebukati and his colleagues are living a lie. It doesn’t matter how long they will hang on. Take it or leave it, someone else will have to get the broom and clean up IEBC.

In II Peter 1:12, the Bible says, remind them even if they know. Kenyans have to tell Chebukati in all honesty that he cannot and will not change the fortunes of his commission. He should quit or be remembered in ignominy. Sweeping electoral reforms are inevitable. The so-called politically instigated tribal fights every five years stem from failure by those in charge to preside over credible polls. An election, even if not perfect, has to inspire some degree of confidence.    

In 2022 and subsequent election years, Kenya will not afford failed elections. Not again. In the community of nations, there’s more to gain when we properly manage our democracy and take charge of our destiny. IEBC holds the key to this feat.

In Kenya, doing the right thing isn’t always seen to be right. In other places, an Energy minister can resign because of a power blackout. Here, we don’t take responsibility for our actions and inactions. Chebukati should do the right thing now.

-The writer is an editor at The Standard. Twitter: @markoloo

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