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Hassan and his IEBC team must go before next polls

By Makau Mutua | April 10th 2016 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

A government that’s oppressive is an unnecessary government. That’s why citizens have an inalienable right to resist — and overthrow — a tyrannical government. This concept — of the people’s power over their own government — is as old as idea of democracy. That’s because the government has no power except that which is donated to it by the people. So, every official — from the Head of State — to the office messenger — is in office because the people put him there. My point is that any official who exercises his power with haughtiness and arrogance conflates his delegated authority with personal power. That’s why IEBC chair Ahmed Issack Hassan — and his commissioners — must go. The people have revoked their donated power.

Let me elucidate the theory behind my conclusion. I don’t do so lightly. I respect and value constitutional offices, and treat them with reverence. That’s why asking an official in such an office to pack up and go home is a weighty matter. In 1849, American thinker Henry David Thoreau wrote the seminal piece “Civil Disobedience.” Mr Thoreau was deeply exercised over an American government gone rogue. As a citizen, he couldn’t abide a government that supported slavery and conducted wanton war against Mexico. He refused to pay taxes to an oppressive government and was jailed. Mr Thoreau argued that citizens shouldn’t allow the government to dull and atrophy their conscience. Doing so would make them agents of injustice.

Mr Thoreau coined a memorable phrase to capture this central philosophy. He wrote that “government is best that governs least.” His point was that the government should stay out of the lives of citizens if it couldn’t do any good. An intrusive, abusive, and overbearing government isn’t necessary. Nor do citizens need a government that twists, turns, and manipulates the law to oppress people.

The only government that’s necessary is that which rests on the willing consent of the governed. A government that resorts to force, coercion, and fear to govern is an illegitimate government. Likewise, official institutions — including constitutional bodies — that lack the confidence of the people have no reason to exist. I put Mr Hassan and the IEBC in this category.

They say that when you are in a hole you should stop digging. Methinks Kenya’s ruling elite — government and opposition — need to take heed of this wisdom. That’s because the country is hurtling down a cliff to the 2017 elections.

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Only stupid states govern by crisis. Nowhere is this more poignant than in the conduct of our elections. In 2008, we nearly lost the country because of the stupidity of the elite. In 2013, we planted the seeds for an explosion in 2017 unless we act with a higher form of human intelligence. But that won’t be possible unless we disband — and reconstitute — the IEBC. Mr Hassan shouldn’t be in that office a day longer.

Let me tell why Jubilee and CORD must come together in a patriotic spirit and fix the IEBC problem, or condemn the country to pogroms next year. Let me address Jubilee first because it has the most to lose. Jubilee is still haunted by the perceived illegitimacy of the 2013 elections. Half the country believes the election wasn’t free and fair — that it was compromised, or stolen. Even Jubilee stalwarts quietly tell me that they got away with a “political heist.” One way to cure that widespread sense of illegitimacy is to disband and reform the IEBC. Send Mr Hassan and his collaborators home, and work with CORD to constitute a new body.

Jubilee has everything to gain — and nothing to lose — by nuking the IEBC. In fact, Jubilee shouldn’t wait to be pushed or harangued into jilting Mr Hassan and the IEBC. Why would Jubilee owe Mr Hassan’s IEBC any loyalty when it’s an albatross around the state’s neck? Kenya doesn’t need a suspect electoral body. Jubilee can take a giant step in courting the people’s confidence by pulling the IEBC down. Let those who have eyes in State House see.

Finally, CORD needs to build bridges with Jubilee officials who are fed up with the IEBC — and there are many. Blowing whistles in the legislature might be protected speech, but there are more effective ways to exercise the solemn duty of the side opposite.

The national interest calls on patriots to suspend party myopia and act as one on the fate of the IEBC. Let’s all see far — like a giraffe — over the trees into the horizon.

IEBC issack hassan 2017 general elections
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