When you have got an elephant by the hind leg, and he is trying to run away, it is best to let him run.
— Abraham Lincoln
In the words of Electoral Commission Chair Ahmed Issack Hassan: "Proposals from Parliament ought to have been on general principles rather than actually creating additional wards. This is the commission’s mandate ... review of the names, number and boundaries of wards."
Mr Issack goes on to say: The provision of Article 89(3) of the Constitution vests the mandate on the commission," and sets the stage for two crucial steps to elections – voter education and registration.
He was speaking after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission set the ball rolling in the preparation for the first elections under new Constitution.
And in so doing, his commission left one minister the star of the constitutional show, namely, Mutula Kilonzo, who is also Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
LETTER AND SPIRIT
Mutula has often found himself on the wrong side of colleagues whenever he interprets the new Constitution. Mutula has often found himself standing alone while the majority remain marooned.
For instance, he urged Parliament to accept the originally proposed electoral boundaries and desist from dragging the matter through the corridors of justice. Did they listen? No!
MPs sent the Andrew Ligale-led team’s report to Parliament’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee that recommended the increase of County Assembly wards to 1,560; up from 1,450.
Effectively, each MP in the committee reportedly cannibalised certain areas of their new electoral units and took that opportunity to carve ‘out’ hostile clans to neighbouring regions. This is not in the letter and spirit of the new Constitution.
The final hurdle to the national voting was removed with the publishing of the final 290 units within which parliamentary constituency and Senator and County Assembly seats will be fought. And since it is impossible to satisfy everyone and accommodate each Kenyan’s choice of name for constituency or ward, the IEBC rejected the proposed additional 110 wards MPs had added to the proposed commission list.
Like a prominent Kenyan once said: "There is enough for all our needs, but there is not enough to satisfy all our greed." He was paraphrasing Indian sage Mahatma Gandhi.
The IEBC had to take a bold decision given the anxiety with which Kenyans locally and abroad are awaiting the first General Election under the new Constitution.
They had to navigate through "polarising opinions, misconception, and high (often unrealistic) expectations to come up with what may satisfy most of the people".
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They clearly read malice aforethought, vested interest and steered clear of stoking those particular embers. The first step was to set aside the amendments the parliamentary committee had made. That is why Hassan reminded his colleagues that theirs were mere proposals. No more.
The IEBC, after minimal tinkering with the initial delimitation has indeed put out advertisements for electoral materials in sections of the Press. That means voter registration might be announced soon and countrywide voter education commence.
The only other pending matter is determination of the actual voting day. One has to do with Parliament’s self-dissolution in January next year, followed by election three months later. Another depends on when the principals to the National Accord, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga dissolve the Coalition Government.
The path to be followed after each of these is fairly well mapped. And all wananchi asked for was a shouting chance to help determine development priorities. But first electoral areas had to be determined. Let’s hope there will be no more people disregarding Abraham Lincoln’s advice. Just let the elephant be.