Editorial | Why as a voter you need to demand for accountability from IEBC

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Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) commissioners inspect the arrival of ballot papers at JKIA. PHOTO/UGC

Revelations by an audit by KPMG that 14 mysterious returning officers had been running IEBC’s database and there were two million mysterious voters in the digital voter register is an issue of grave public interest and concern.

The audit revealed that the 14 mysterious returning officers had access to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) Integrated Database Management System (IDMS) that is very critical in insuring tomorrow’s polls are not only free and free, but are also credible and verifiable.

The revelations also come against a background of the arrest of some IEBC personnel in clandestine meetings with candidates in the coming polls not to mention the circulation of leaflets in parts of Rift Valley targeting a section of communities living in the region that has witnessed recurrent ethic based violence since the 1990s.

With just hours remaining for Kenyans to cast their votes, there is need for voters to demand for an assurance from IEBC for a free, fair, peaceful, democratic, credible, just and verifiable election.

The 2022 succession General Election comes at a time the country is yet to resolve the injustice that were perpetuated during the 2007-2008 post-election violence that was a result of the disputed presidential results between retired President Mwai Kibaki (PNU) and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga (ODM).

At the time Mr Odinga’s ODM was leading as the tallying of votes headed towards the end, when the late chairman of the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) Samuel Kivuitu, announced that some returning officers had disappeared with results from their respective areas  making it difficult for him to announce the winner of the presidential race.

On the other side Mr Odinga’s ODM which at the time comprised of among others, William Ruto (UDA), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) among presidential aspirants in 2022, started warning of a plot to rig the polls, while other presidential aspirants like Martha Karua and Moses Wetangula supported Kibaki. Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka also a presidential candidate in 2007 on the ODM-Kenya ticket (Wiper) crossed to Kibaki’s side and he was made Vice-President.

What transpired later is now water under the bridge, but the painful memories of this disputed General Election still linger in the minds of those who witnessed this despicable travesty of our governance structures.

Majority of us remember the murderous mayhem that left more than 1,000 people dead, 500,000 displaced and thousands of others maimed or sexually abused and property worth billions destroyed.

The bloodbath that followed this highly explosive disputed polls only came to an end after former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan, brokered a truce between Kibaki-Raila that resulted in a Government of national unity where Mr Odinga became Prime Minister and he was deputized by Mudavadi and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

To date justice is yet to be delivered to the 2007-2008 post-election victims as majority of the perpetrators who were mainly foot-soldiers of the presidential candidates are still walking scot-free apart from a few high-profile individuals who include President Kenyatta, DP Ruto, former Police Commissioner Maj-Gen(Rtd) Mohamed Hussein Ali, former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura, former Cabinet Minister Henry Koskey and radio presenter Joshua Sang, who were charged at The Hague based International Criminal Court (ICC) but were later acquitted due to lack of evidence.

It has to be noted that the High Court in Nairobi in 2020 found the Government of Kenya responsible for failure to investigate and prosecute 2007-2008 post-election sexual violence.

In a landmark judgement, the High Court ruled in favour of four survivors of post-election sexual violence in Kenya. The Court found that the Government of Kenya was responsible for a “failure to conduct independent and effective investigations and prosecutions of sexual and gender-based violence-related crimes during the post-election violence.”

What is saddening is that most of the more than 5,000 victims of sexual and gender based violence and other victims of post-election violence are yet to be compensated as we head to towards the 2022 General Election.

Allegations of a plot to rig the polls are now reverberating from both the Kenya Kwanza Alliance and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition and questions about the ability of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to conduct a free, fair, peaceful, democratic, credible, and verifiable election have emerged.

Claims of some of the players in the coming electoral process hiring cyber hackers to interfere with IEBC’s information technology infrastructure and even the Kenya Integrated Election Management System (KIEMS) kits that are to facilitate voting are worrying developments.

Such reports are not only dangerous but a recipe for chaos in the country should the management of 2022 General Election fail to meet the expectations of majority of Kenyans.

It has to be noted that the Supreme Court of Kenya indicted the IEBC as having bungled the 2017 General Election following reports of massive irregularities that included the manipulation of results from the polling stations and the interference of the electronic votes tallying system.

The Supreme Court of Kenya judges said the 8 August 2017 poll was “neither transparent nor verifiable”.

The Supreme Court then took the unprecedented step of annulling the election on 1 September. It was the first time in Africa that a court had agreed with an opposition demand to cancel a presidential election over rigging allegations.

Man under the spotlight: Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati. PHOTO/UGC

During the hearing of the petition challenging the election of President Kenyatta, the IEBC refused to comply with a court order to allow its electronic voting system to be scrutinized and up to date no proper audit of the IEBC electronic voting system has been done.

Reports indicate that OT-Morpho, the company that provided the more than 40,000 voting kits in the disputed 2017 could have come back under a new name, Smartmatic International B.V, yet questions about their bungling of the previous poll is yet to be addressed.

Kenyans of goodwill must demand for an assurance from IEBC that it will deliver an election that meets expectations of transparent, credible and verifiable polls.

As a country we must remember that elections and other political processes are pivotal to the quality of a country’s governance and can either greatly advance or set back a country’s long-term democratic development, as well as global foreign policy priorities.

The IEBC must embrace tenets of a free and fair election that involves political freedoms and fair processes leading up to the vote, a fair count of eligible voters who cast a ballot including such aspects as electoral fraud or voter suppression and acceptance of election results by all parties.

We are aware that political freedom often lays the foundation upon which economic freedom and therefore prosperity can be built and this includes issues like the rule of law that respects property rights, enforces contracts, and punishes corruption is essential for the operation of business enterprises.

Thousands of Kenyans are still rebuilding their lives after most of them lost either their land or other properties following the looting and destruction that came with the 2007-2008 post-election violence.

People who lost businesses and property during that mayhem need assurance not only from IEBC but also from other state agencies that 2022 General Election is not another moment for them to be apprehensive and start looking for alternative places to move to due to fears of outbreak of new violence.

Kenyans regard the IEBC as the guardian of elections in this country and they look up to it to facilitate a free, fair, peaceful, democratic, credible, and verifiable election.

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