Restore credibility in electoral processes

The debate on the suitability of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to conduct the next polls has occupied national conversation in recent days.

This is likely to remain so as the nation inches closer to the 2017 polls. Last week, the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) joined the fray, calling for far-reaching reforms to restore public confidence in the electoral process.
The Opposition insists IEBC commissioners must vacate office because they lack the credibility to conduct free and fair elections.

The Government's side, on the other hand, argues that leaders must not resort to destroying institutions every time they lose elections.

This debate is both healthy and necessary. The sovereign people of Kenya deserve not just a credible election, but one that is seen to be so. Leaders from both sides of the political divide must not shy away from carrying out any reforms that contribute to a process that is acceptable to all Kenyans. This must be done while time is still on our side.
Whatever the outcome of the next elections, if key institutions are not seen as fair arbiters, then there is a likelihood that one or more players could reject the results, thereby threatening the fragile peace the country has enjoyed since the 2007/2008 post-poll violence.

It is widely expected the 2017 elections will pit President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Coalition against CORD’s Raila Odinga. The two men draw their huge, sometimes fanatical following, mainly from their ethnic and regional backyards.

Signs of tension between the two groups are already evident from the strong positions they take on various issues.
Yet, as August 2017 draws closer, IEBC finds itself in a tricky position - enjoying the explicit support of the ruling Jubilee coalition and vilified by the Opposition. Indeed, IEBC has been on the crosshairs of CORD and its supporters since the last General Election.

Claims of impartiality aside, the polls body is also facing accusations of corruption in procurement of election kits for which their alleged accomplices in the UK have been prosecuted and sent to prison.

Jubilee and CORD leaders have a duty to agree on an IEBC whose composition inspires confidence on the Kenyan people. This could also help stem rising impunity in the country where leaders accused of serious malpractices stay in office instead of resigning to allow for investigations.

IEBC is not the only body facing a crisis of confidence. The Supreme Court is facing a crisis of its own, with some of its justices accused of obtaining favours allegedly to bend the course of justice. One of the judges is already facing a tribunal.

While Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, who is also the President of the Supreme Court, will be retiring next June, his deputy, Justice Kalpana Rawal, has been fighting her own retirement in court. She argues that having joined the Judiciary under the old constitution, she should retire at 74 rather than 70. At the same time, emerging information has Rawal named in the Panama papers, a global investigation into how the powerful and wealthy elite register and run shadowy companies in far-flung jurisdictions.

The good justice may have done nothing wrong, but the damage done to the institution she sits on by these allegations is getting worse by the day. There can be no better time to radically reform the Supreme Court and restore a semblance of faith and confidence in the Judiciary.

For their part, the Kenyan people, irrespective of their political leanings, must continue demanding greater accountability from the political class. We cannot wish away the growing impunity in the country. It is hurting us individually and collectively.