NCIC faults Court for 'divisive' poll verdict

National Cohesion and Integration Commissioner, Hon. (Eng.) Phillip Okundi addressing workshop at Kakamega Golf hotel on December 15, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) wants the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to start preparing for elections to avert mistrust.

The Commission has also called out the Supreme Court for using divisive language in its announcement of the August poll results.

According to the Commission's report that was conducted before, during and after the August 9 General Election and titled 'Election Bila Noma', the Commission said last-minute rushed preparedness in the polls led to suspicion and voter apathy that saw eight million Kenyans not voting.

The study, released on Friday, was done in the regions of Western, Nyanza, Central, Coast, Central Rift, South Rift, Upper Eastern, North Eastern and Nairobi with a total of 385 respondents.

"Most Kenyans cited lack of civic education as a major cause of voter apathy, especially among the youth in the just concluded general election," said Philip Okundi, NCIC Commissioner in a meeting at Golf Hotel Kakamega.

The respondents suggested that with the increase in the number of political parties and individuals vying for political office, the voting process became more complicated.

Consequently, they said all six elective posts should not have been selected in one day. Instead, they should be split so they are conducted on different days to ease the process.

"This is for special groups, like the elderly and illiterate. However the report indicates that Kenyans accepted significant extra costs would be incurred with the Commission calling for more funding to IEBC," said Okundi.

According to the study Kenyans want the safety of IEBC officials, enforcement of chapter six of the constitution and capping on election spending.

It was also noted that citizens want IEBC to rethink its communication strategy with more focus on better citizenry awareness of their policies, processes, and embedded in the electoral cycle, likewise to stakeholders. The NCIC report revealed that division within IEBC dented the image of the institution and if not checked, has a high risk of causing mistrust and losing credibility among citizens, and requested for tight security for IEBC officials.

However, NCIC Commissioner Okundi said 65 per cent of Kenyans were satisfied with the conduct of the IEBC as compared to previous years.

"The country witnessed peace at large and what made many people keep the peace was the way IEBC uploaded its information and election results on the public portal. To a large extent the move eased and cooled the tension," said Okundi.

On the Supreme Court ruling on the presidential petition filed by Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition Party against President William Ruto of Kenya Kwanza, NCIC said the words used to deliver the presidential verdict was termed as 'unduly exaggerated' and a key contributor to a negative peace among people.

NCIC commissioner Okundi, however, said it did not find the words to hate speech but the choice of words were not conflict-sensitive.

"It is critical that the judiciary exercises conflict sensitivity in delivering its judgments, more specifically when determining a landmark ruling such as a presidential petition," said Okundi.