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Have we done enough to avert violence in 2022?

HOUGHTON IRUNGU
By Irungu Houghton | July 10th 2021

Schoolgirl being assisted to flush teargas from her eyes during a protest in Kawangware on October 30, 2017. [Courtesy]

Ignore elder Francis Atwoli and other doomsayers, it’s official. The next general election will take place on August 9, 2022. The Elections Operation Plan now in the public domain, the election countdown has begun. With national security agencies, human rights organisations and businesses deep in scenario planning, what could we do to de-risk electoral politics?

This week saw a Haitian president executed in his mansion and 40 people die as thousands marched in a pro-democracy rebellion in Eswatini.

The credibility of recent Zambian and Ethiopian elections have been marred by state violence, media crackdowns, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly violations and arbitrary arrests of opposition leaders and civic educators.

Within this context, I carefully read the IEBC Electoral Operational Plan and calendar for strategies that reduce the possibility of any of these scenarios showing up on our soil.

The 64-page plan identifies seven risks. They include laws not being enforced by law enforcement agencies, clarified by courts or enacted by the National Assembly.

Violence and disinformation, late or manipulated recruitment of partisan commissioners, Treasury underfunding and digital technology manipulation or failure are among high risks. These seven perils will play out in the present uncertainty of Covid-19, state indebtedness and recession. De-risking is a familiar term within most successful businesses. It either involves taking steps to reduce financial loss or cancelling relationships that could get you arrested.

De-risking is not only management planning, it takes leadership to create a strategic vision and inspire others to commit themselves to a course of action. Managers may have staff, but leaders inspire leadership.

With the elections barely a year away, there is still not enough leadership from both referees and players. Big business continues to plead neutrality despite the leaked secrets dropped last month at Chris Kirubi’s funeral. No grand proposals yet to de-risk employees who may want to run but fear joblessness and post-economic ruin. While the political class scratches for legal arguments and Sh14 billion for a one-day referendum, the electoral commission begs for Sh80 billion to manage the next five years.

Let’s welcome the hate-speech concerns of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, and remind them no national civic education strategy exists to inform 17 million smartphones and 7 million unique social media users and respond to the 51 per cent who remain anonymous on Twitter.

Listening to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the Judiciary dropped the ball in 2017 by not determining whether Chapter Six rests on an ethical or criminal standard.

This omission alone has allowed thieves to stream into public offices in broad daylight and cost the country dearly. Perhaps her Ladyship Chief Justice Martha Koome could revisit this with haste. Encouragingly, the Campaign Financing Act (2013) now requires all political parties and candidates to publish their accounts and account managers by June 2022. However, most of the damage will be done at the primaries scheduled between now and June 2022.

Without other strategies, the Act remains an important speed bump rather than a roadblock for the cartels and their appointees. We are not doing enough to de-risk or de-stigmatise elective politics. If some of these actions seem utopian to you, the nightmare of not taking them is predictable. Nightmare or nirvana, choose.

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