Jubilee Coalition schemes to control electoral oversight bodies ahead of 2017 causing grave concern

ELIUD PHOTOBy Eliud Owalo

Apart from the police service that is charged with the duty of ensuring a peaceful environmental and orderly conduct during the elections, there are only two constitutional and presumably Independent bodies that play a critical role during the elections. These are the IEBC which is mandated to organize and superintend the polls and declare the results thereof and the Judiciary which through the courts, is tasked with the duty of adjudicating over electoral disputes. Both bodies are expected to be independent while discharging their respective duties and are therefore obliged to be manned and guided by people with high moral integrity, beyond reproach and unquestionable professional competence. This is imperative not only for purposes of engendering public trust but also for ensuring impartiality, accountability and transparency in the work of the electoral body.

However, judging from the unfolding experiences under the Jubilee Government, it appears that the ruling Executive is now intent on exercising undue influence and control over the two electoral oversight bodies. And this is why. First, the opposition group, Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) has expressed misgivings on the independence and competence of the current leadership of IEBC as constituted. The call for the overhaul of the electoral body ;is based on the fact that it mismanaged the 2013 General Elections thereby giving rise to an avalanche of court petitions and causing wastage of colossal amounts of public funds through fraudulent and questionable procurement deals. The number of election petitions blamed on IEBC following court rulings and the Auditor General’s report on IEBC’s imprudent use of public funds provide incontrovertible evidence in this regard.

It is no surprise to keen observers that the Jubilee mandarins have not only refused to heed CORD’s call for audit and overhaul of IEBC but have also turned blind eye to the incriminating reports of the Auditor General, Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) as well as Judicial findings piling blames on IEBC for electoral misconduct. Clearly, the Jubilee Administration feels comfortable with the current Commissioners of IEBC simply because their partisanship and partiality works in favor of the Jubilee Leadership as was manifested in the conduct of the 2013 General Elections.

Second, following the much-criticized Supreme Court ruling on the 2013 Presidential Election Petition filed by Hon. Raila Odinga, the ruling Executive has apparently picked up the cue and is wasting no time in preparing grounds for the anticipated changes in the membership of the Supreme Court, in readiness for the 2017 polls. Most of the Supreme Court Judges are set to retire by operation of the law prior to the 2017 polls and will have to be replaced. In this regard, it appears the Executive now needs to have a friendly JSC over and above on amenable National Assembly. These are the two organs which vet applicants seeking entry into the Judiciary, prior to their formal appointment by the President. Already, President Uhuru Kenyatta is under fire from the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) for failing to execute his Constitutional mandate to appoint all the 25 lawyers approved by both Parliament and JSC to serve in the Judiciary. Although Article 166 of the Constitution is clear on what the President should do with the approved list of the applicants for such appointments, he has unconstitutionally chosen to pick only 11 out of the 25 names submitted to him for appointment. The President is acting contrary to the law for future personal political interest aimed at influencing the appointments and control over judges of the Supreme Court with his eyes set on 2017. Further, the opposition of the Jubilee Government to reform the security sector as recommended by the Kriegler Report and the National Accord and Reconciliation Act (especially Agenda IV) fits the same political maneuver aimed at ensuring a tilted ground for the 2017 General Elections.

It is instructive to recall that the 2007 Post Election Violence (PEV) in Kenya was caused mainly because of the undue influence of the then Ruling Executive on the work of the Electoral Body, the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK). The Executive was accused of forcing ECK to announce Presidential Election results which never reflected the actual poll results. Even prior to the polls, President Mwai Kibaki unilaterally picked members of ECK against the wishes of the opposition. And this happened at a time when the public had lost trust and confidence in the work of the Judiciary. The outcome was public outrage demonstrated through mayhem and civil strife.

Overall, it’s clear to most citizens that there was no improvement in the conduct of the 2013 General Elections relative to the 2007 polls. The partisan, incompetent and impartial performance of IEBC in the 2013 polls is already evidently unearthed by PAC Reports, Auditor General Report and Court Rulings on Election Petitions. Further, the Supreme Court Ruling on the 2013 Presidential Election Petition No. 5 and the three judge appellate ruling on the Obado case provide enough proof that IEBC had not learnt from the 2007 PEV.

In view of the aforesaid, it is now incumbent upon every progressive citizen in the Country to be wary of and resist the move by the Jubilee Government to control key Electoral Oversight Bodies especially IEBC and the Judiciary in readiness for 2017 General Elections. The tragedy is that the end result will be Perpetual Impunity and Misrule in this Country.

The writer is a Management Consultant based in Nairobi.

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