Good faith critical to reforms dialogue

It is unfortunate blood had to be shed and so much pain endured before the Government agreed to talks on electoral reforms and the composition of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Kenya seems to have leaders who are disciples of former German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, who said great problems of the day will not be resolved by round-table conferences but by iron and blood.

The recalcitrance and intransigence exhibited by the Government was quite unnecessary.

After the 2013 elections, it was apparent that something was wrong with the way the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission managed the elections.

There were systemic, integrity and structural problems that afflicted the conduct of elections where the protagonists for the presidency were not far apart.

There was need to comprehensively interrogate the failure of these systems.

Immediately after the 2013 elections in Kenya, the East Africa Law Society held a Constitution Conference to look at past elections with emphasis on the 2013 elections in Kenya.

Among the key recommendations was that there was need to establish regional benchmarks for electoral processes in East Africa.

These standards should be based on the following key principles; periodical elections, conduct of free, fair and genuine elections, universal suffrage, right to contest election results, equality of vote and independence and adequate resourcing of election management bodies.

It was further observed that the authenticity and integrity of the voter register is paramount in ensuring free and fair elections.

This includes considering establishing an integrated voter registration system and that the development and effective implementation of sound electoral laws is imperative for ensuring free and fair elections.

However, legal and policy reforms should not take place on the eve of elections, and re-demarcation of electoral districts or colleges should be discouraged.

We also noted that there is need to put in place a legal and policy framework to regulate campaign financing with a view to insulating the election process from corruption and commercialisation.

Suffice to say that this report was handed over to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in Kenya in 2013 yet to date no action has been taken.

The Law Society of Kenya through its past council initiated an audit of the 2013 elections.

It also recommended comprehensive reforms in many areas, including the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and further recommended a legal framework to anchor the said reforms in Law.

Again these recommendations went unheeded, with the ultimate result being that demonstrations had to be organised before parties could sit down and talk. This seems to be the tragedy of African governments that believe when something is broken, don’t fix it as long as it works for them.

These reforms are needed to help the country move forward to the next level.

Finally, now that talks have started, let us hope the said talks are going to be done in good faith since in Kenya such talks tend to get long drawn out, take on partisan interests and are usually torpedoed.

The negotiators, like in any other negotiations, take a hard-line stance to extract as much concessions as possible for their principals.

It is also possible that these talks are just a smokescreen that would be disowned when it is clear there is no time for reforms.

It is the hope of Kenyans that those talks will be sincere, beneficial and timely to avoid schisms and disgruntlement that may poison the Kenyan body politic as we head to the 2017 General Election.