The brutal police actions against demonstrating opposition followers demanding overhauling the management/commissioners at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) have only been horrifically glaring and more are yet to come if that impasse is not resolved.
The demands led by the opposition Cord leader, Raila Odinga and his allies and now supported by the church and other religious groups in the country for reforms at the IEBC before the next general elections scheduled next year is only what millions of Kenyans are seeing at face value.
The crux of the matter is that elections in Kenya have become an extremely lucrative high stakes business involving hundreds of billions of shillings even running into trillions when you consider what kind of money the winner of the elections will be controlling.
They are these high stakes and the colossus of cash involved that the IEBC is charged with handling its fate hangs in the balance before the next general elections. Indeed the Commission according to the law that set it up is supposed to be independent, impartial, non-partisan name it – to conduct free and fair elections to choose the country’s leadership right from the President, through Members of Parliament to the Ward Representatives.
However, there are some extremely critical questions that are begging answers that the IEBC itself cannot give, nor Cord and its ruling opponent Jubilee. The most critical query being is the IEBC as currently constituted capable of handling a free, fair, un-biased and non-partisan general election next year? Were they able to do that at the last general elections although they had been newly constituted and legally sworn into office?
In the most recent months other critical questions that have emerged which are still begging answers are – the “Chicken gate” equation in which some senior IEBC officials and commissioners were implicated in a British court that convicted personalities found guilty of having been involved in corrupt deals with the commission – why has there been no action taken against the implicated IEBC officials? The procurements, tendering and contracts processes at the Commission are they transparent and accountable?
Delving into the operations of the IEBC or any other electoral commission in Kenya under the current political landscape gives an extremely grim picture of the situation. The matter is not only worsened by the high monetary stakes involved, but also the high level of corruption in the country that is gripping the citizens from the national level all the way to the villages – specifically bribery.
Already the IEBC is discredited in the manner in which it procured the biometric voter machines at the last general elections in which hundreds of millions were reportedly lost, but at least saw some former senior managers at the commission led by the then Chief Executive James Oswago sent packing – but have they been successfully prosecuted?
That has only been worsened by the recent “Chicken gate” scandal in which nothing has been done as the commission’s chair Hassan Isaack retreats into a permanent defensive mood even when there are obvious anomalies that must be addressed immediately – here we are only talking about the tip of the ice berg that is the monster called tendering and procurements procedures at IEBC.
What is not told is the fact that the story does not stop there, because the problem is endemic in IEBC offices virtually in all the 47 counties in the country and down to the sub-county level where the commission has fairly permanent offices in all sub-counties that are supposed to handle its business at constituency level.
What has emerged is the fact that even as IEBC is being accused of being compromised at the national level, their entities in most sub-counties across the country have not been spared starting right from the recruitment of clerical officers to register voters – they are compromised to favour particular political interests on the ground.
The IEBC officers in the counties at the sub-county level become targets of corrupt compromise involving cash money to rig the elections to favour certain candidates and it is done at virtually every general election. The recruitment clerks are simply instructed what to do by the compromised senior IEBC officials at the constituency level. They even go as far as registering “imported voters” from neighbouring constituencies.
However, in counties sharing borders with countries like Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan it is real these voters are imported from neighbouring countries and have Kenyan national Identification cards to boot to register as voters anywhere they want – and indeed they actively participate in the elections.
The situation is worsened by the fact that most of the communities living along these porous borders are the same and cut across the borders with relatives or common ethnic background on either side. Take for instance the Kenya – Uganda border we have the luhyias who cut across the border, the Teso the same, further in the immediate neighbourhood the Bukusu in Kenya and Bagisu in Uganda, followed by the Mt. Elgon Maasai and the Sebei in Uganda all these crowned by the war like Turkana with the Karamoja in Uganda – these relatives can vote either way and IEBC is the one which provides these votes.
The real problems erupt at the electioneering period when hundreds of returning officers, presiding officers and even clerks are compromised by candidates at the grassroots level to rig the vote in favour of specific candidates who may have given them hefty bribes because they are fighting for the bigger stakes that have become the country’s elective offices.
The entire processes at the grassroots level is hyped to abnormal levels with candidates throwing bribes left right and centre sometimes all the way to the door steps of the polling stations – the time for voters to eat. With compromised voters and IEBC officials right from the grassroots level, what do you expect at the national level where the stakes are extremely higher?
That is why after every electioneering year there inevitably are petitions challenging the election of the “winners” with IEBC and its officials again playing a central in the hearing and determination of these cases which are considered some of the most expensive litigations in the country and yet that is another level of corruption.
Whereas at the constituency level the IEBC officials may be talking in the league of hundreds of thousands of shillings or even millions compared to the voters’ few hundreds, at the national level because the stakes are higher we are talking of hundreds of millions and even billions if the winner – the president – is going to handle trillions of shillings annually not to mention the multi-billion shillings tenders and contracts involved at the national government level – the governments being the highest spenders anywhere in the world.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Isaack and his IEBC team have taken a hard-line stance in defiance of Cord’s demands to quit even if their jobs are protected by an Act of law that created that commission. That is because they know how high the stakes involved are at that level. Leave alone the lucrative high salaries, allowances and other perks Isaack and his team are drawing monthly from the commission.
Come general elections Isaack and his team become the biggest targets for multi-mega hundreds of millions and even billion of shillings in bribes to swing the presidential vote since the commission has the capacity to compromise the elections right from the village to the national level. Those gunning for the presidential office are acutely aware of these high level machinations and manipulations that are usually highly secretive and in most cases deadly.
The rampant bribery equation in the electioneering process in Kenya did not start with the IEBC, as a matter of fact the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) was notorious of that and there is no guarantee or to mitigate that the IEBC will be any better since its composed of individuals whose level of integrity only God knows.
Indeed it is from this background that the opposition coalition Cord is fighting tooth and nail to have reforms and some surgery of the personnel at the IEBC while President Uhuru and his Deputy are busy scoffing at these demands saying they are powerless because they are in office and in control of a trillion shillings economy that may mean nothing to compromise IEBC to stay in power a second term.[ayssocial_buttons id=”2″]