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Kenyans only want people of integrity as IEBC commissioners

By Mulang’o Baraza | April 20th 2021

An IEBC official assists a voter during the Machakos Senatorial seat byelection in machakos county on 18th March 2021.[David Gichuru,Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared vacant four commissioner positions at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries  Commission (IEBC).

Following a resignation spree that began with former commissioner Roselyn Akombe’s soon after the disputed 2017 elections, IEBC has operated under the stewardship of only three commissioners; including chair Wafula Chebukati.

Recent amendments to the IEBC law require that candidates for the positions of commissioner at the body be vetted by a multi-agency panel made up of representatives from Parliament, the Law Society of Kenya and religious organisations.

A free, fair and credible election is a triumph of institutional integrity.

If our country’s past experience at the ballot is anything to go by, we need a new IEBC team that not only inspires public confidence, but also promises to do things differently.

In my view, the current team, led by Mr Chebukati, should have gone home alongside the agency’s then CEO Ezra Chiloba.

A miasma of connivance and perfidy has hung over the commission since the days of former chair Issack Hassan.

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The commission’s integrity has long been dented as manifested in the Supreme Court’s nullification of the August 8, 2017 presidential election results and the Raila Odinga-led Opposition’s boycott of the October 26, 2017 repeat polls.

As the country gears up for a possible law change later this year, and a General Election slightly over a year away, the agency’s commissioners’ ability and integrity mustn’t be in question.

The men and women who present themselves and are recruited for the positions of commissioner, chair, CEO and others must be people of integrity.

 The team must be able to deliver on their mandate. Save for isolated instances such as when, late last year, former US President Donald Trump cast aspersions on the integrity of the country’s Electoral College system, Americans, for the most part, have trust in the country’s democratic institutions.

This is notwithstanding the fact that the agency has five times, since John Quincy Adams in 1824, chosen presidents for the country against the clear manifestation of Americans’ popular will.

It’s often said that the IEBC and its precursor, the Electoral Commission of Kenya, have each won the confidence of Kenyans only once - in 2010 and 2002, respectively.

This was during former President Mwai Kibaki’s election to office and a plebiscite to ratify the 2010 Constitution.

Candidates, for the vacant positions at the agency, will soon be making familiar noises about novelty. But it is the much-needed credibility they bring to the agency that Kenyans must demand.

The ancient Greek philosopher, lawmaker and poet Solon, put it thus: “Put greater trust in nobility of character than in an oath.”

Mulang’o Baraza, Nairobi

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