Lack of trust in electoral agency is too costly for us all

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. [File, Standard]

The just-concluded general election has reiterated the deeply rooted mistrust not only among ourselves as Kenyans but also in our institutions.

The low voter turnout in Mount Kenya has, for example, been attributed to the fact that there was no presidential candidate from 'the mountain' and therefore no urgency in wanting to vote for someone from another region.

The biggest worry is the little trust we have in our constitutionally established institutions. Sadly, the cost of our lack of trust goes beyond money, time and image, to human lives. Shortly before the 2017 elections, Chris Msando and his female companion lost their lives.

Allegedly, Msando's crime was working for the electoral agency. Seemingly, Msando's death was as a result of our lack of trust in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). If the political elite believes in the agency mandated by law to conduct free and fair elections, there would be no need to 'intervene' by meddling in its affairs.

Recently, the world witnessed the fracas at the national tallying centre as the tallying of the presidential votes was underway.

The lack of belief in the IEBC staff saw politicians and their representatives resort to kicks and blows with each political camp suspecting the other of electoral malpractice.

We witnessed diplomats hurriedly leave what was rapidly degenerating into a crime scene, with the chair of the IEBC indicating later that some of his colleagues were injured in the melee.

High stakes

A returning officer, Mr Daniel Musyoka, went missing only for his body to be discovered days later. Given the timing of his disappearance and subsequent death, it is highly likely that his killers had, or were working for someone with high stakes in the election.

It is so unfortunate that even after working so hard to put in place institutions to safeguard our collective democratic right, we still do not trust the people in the institutions to deliver their services in the best interest of the country.

Perhaps some people are apprehensive that once electoral disputes move to the courts, they will not get justice, hence the need to grant themselves victory at every cost.

Kenya is not a lawless jungle. We have worked so hard to put in place institutions that are mandated to deliver services in the best interest of every Kenyan.

The IEBC is one such critical body that we need to build trust in. We all cannot be IEBC officials. We, therefore, need to cultivate a culture of belief in its staff.

The staff should also commit to follow the law in the execution of their mandate. No matter how credible the elections are, if we do not trust the body legally mandated to oversee the process, we will continue to lose lives every electioneering period.

-Dr Kalangi is a Communication trainer and Consultant, Kenyatta University