Chebukati, team failed to ensure electoral justice

Monday, January 30th, 2023 03:00 | By
Chebukati's last words to Kenyans as he exits IEBC
Outgoing IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. PHOTO/IEBC (@IEBCKenya)/Twitter

Three electoral commission bosses left office after their term of duty recently. In fact, they left with the enviable accolade of having served their term to completion successfully. Even though it happens to be their biggest achievement, they leave with very little as far as electoral justice is concerned.

Well, these commissioners are praised for withstanding intimidation, surviving attempts on their lives and all manner of threats, which for the winning side makes them gallant heroes while for the other side of the divide they are villains.

Losers or winners aside we can objectively unpack retired IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and commissioners Prof Yusuf Guliye and Boya Molu, because failure to do so will allow winners of the battle and not the war to tell the story.

Let us look at it this way - for six years these commissioners have had the chance to put in place a system that would provide Kenyans with a free, fair, transparent and credible electoral system that can be verified. Instead, their public appearance and submissions in the Tribunal gives a clear indication that even amongst themselves the chronology of what they did is shrouded in opaqueness.

You see, the fact that the Supreme Court upheld the election victory of the current regime does not in any way mean that Kenyans celebrate this team and how they handled the process that essentially put everyone on the edge.

In fact, from the Supreme Court ruling and the prayers Azimio sought, it is clear that the ruling was more about the prevailing circumstances and greater public good and not the legitimacy of the process or outcome. Supreme Court judges rightly asked during the court proceedings, that if they were to vacate the elections, who then was going to hold the repeat elections.

And was it going to be a runoff or a fresh election? There were also fundamental questions on the commissioners because vacating the elections would have essentially incriminated the chair and his commissioners. It is, therefore, legitimate to ask what contribution these three made to our democracy and electoral justice system beyond the ruling that upheld the 2022 presidential elections.

Commissioners walked out on them, not once, but three times, their allegations have been as wild as it can get yet they have not recorded statements or reported attempts to compromise them or threats to their lives and going by the information in the public domain they are yet to give Kenyans form 34C. Suffice to note, even as they leave office they have presided over elections that have been as contested and controversial as the 2007 elections, only that Kenyans have matured over time to know better than to stoop to low and lose it because of the ineptitude of a few.

In fact, there is no landmark contribution they have made that suggest going into 2027 we are better. This is a commission that we have paid billions to run credible and verifiable elections but for two successive General Election, they still came back to us, saying that if you don’t have agents in all the polling stations your votes will be stolen.

Ludicrous to say the least! This is a commission that is leaving office and has the audacity to ask Parliament to deal with issues of access to the Tallying Centre. For six years! What were they doing? If the events of the tallying Centre on that August 15, 2022, are to be understood, we also need clarity on what this commission did or did not do to get us there.

The chairman and his team had a chance to advance our democracy by putting in place a system that would have guaranteed or at least paved way for a future where each and every vote counts. On this front they have failed and as we move to 2027, it seems like we are back to the slate that we had when the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya was disbanded. 

The fact that we successfully had a democratic process does not mean it is down to the three commissioners as the forces within the current regime would want us to believe.

— The writer is a PhD candidate in political communication

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