Many of us who are keen followers of the English Premier League are aware of the name Mike Dean. In times gone by he was the envy of his peers. Viewed as the paragon of integrity and fairness coupled with athletic flair and some degree of theatrics from time to time was his trade mark. A top-level professional, he was given most of the high profile matches to play the crucial role of arbiter. He has also been feted by no less the same peers as the referee of the season for many a campaign, an equivocally great honour. Then it all unraveled before his eyes in ways even he could not ever have fathomed. In recent times his standards have been gradually slipping. But things came to a head when West Ham hosted Manchester United in January. Dean sent off Sofiane Feghouli for a challenge on Phil Jones which was later rescinded. This culminated in the official attracting an immeasurable quantum of criticism for his shocking performance. Dean awarded more penalties than any other league referee this season with ten. Remarkably, five of the last six red cards he has shown have been rescinded. EPL could no longer stomach such a horror movie actor. Ultimately, his credibility was sempiternally tainted by that fiasco. Punitively, he has been demoted to the lower tier known as the English Championship with less glamour and more ‘windy nights in Staffordshire’ and cattle track playing surfaces. This may be purgatory for him or in pessimistic Russian speak, “he may have let the Pierogi Burn.” How great the mighty tumble. Key word ‘credibility.’ Sorry, digression things!
I would like to take this chance to congratulate and cordially welcome the newly appointed IEBC Chairman Mr. Wafula Chebukati and his team to the hot seat! The above statement is not a misnomer but a candid assessment of the challenges ahead of this team. It will be an interesting chance and great honour for them to offer their skill, competence even eccentricities to the progression and success of this vital national institution. The task ahead of them is by no means a walk in the park. Ensuring a just, free, fair, accurate, verifiable, credible, accountable; hence, peaceful 2017 General Election is the first item on their in-tray.
From low voter turnout (apathy), inadequate voter education to understaffing in the institution, these tribulations continue to gnaw at the fabric of the organization like a very hungry louse. The apathy could two-pronged. Famine related as people have moved elsewhere in such of survival and general disillusionment of the populace with the current thieving, chameleonistic & ‘dead-beat dad’ current crop. Greater challenges include the failure of the biometric voter registration kit, instances of multiple identities registered under one identity card number already witnessed for two high-level dignitaries, mix up of details in these kits as seen for one opposition leader, irregular distribution of the kits, incorporation of foreigners into the voter register. Reports of the conscription of National Intelligence Service Agents into the voter registration process has reared a very ugly head into an already ghastly mix. To add insult to injury, an open attack on the independence of the institution by the edict issued by the Interior Cabinet Secretary to all county administrators that they jeopardize their tenure if they assist in the voter registration in the opposition strong holds has sullied the process further. A member of the ruling coalition recently by the skin-of-the-teeth escaped arrest in a neighbouring country leaving behind what may prima facie appear to be voter registration materials. What the hell were they even doing with these? Even the once noble National Youth Service registration of bio-metrics has been integrated into the voter register. These would no doubt present an arduous cogency challenge even for veterans in the job let alone one still in the internship phase of his / her posting.
The former Kenyan Prime Minister and irrevocably venerable citizen of this country has in recent time made some disparaging accusations against this institution. What steps are being made to disabuse his fears and render them moot? According to the empirical, logical and internationally acclaimed scientific norm in testing a hypothesis, one is usually adduced. Then you get a sample size for testing, collect data on the basis of this hypothesis, compare results obtained on the import of the hypothesis then you finally declare the null hypothesis a truth or fallacy. Have steps been taken with regard to this?
I have personally experienced an anomaly in the verification process. When I took the responsibility of going to confirm if my biometrics had been captured; the wide-eyed beauty (whose father must be very proud of) on call for that day gave me the obligatory precursory salutation. She then proceeded to ask a visibly animated ‘yours truly’ for my Identity Card. She keyed in the number and out spewed forth my name and polling centre from the last elections among other details. When I casually asked why none of my biometric features had been used to identify me, I was casually dismissed with a smile. All the while getting chided by the queue behind me who thought I was unnecessarily holding up progress with this apparently infernal flirting. Forgive me for expressing sentiments of concern. Is the technology being insulated from failure?
The failures of the recently disbanded Ahmed Issack Hassan-led commission and the now-defunct Kivuitu-led Electoral Commission of Kenya were mainly due to a glaring lack of independence. Among other obstacles this can only be a recipe for disaster when in the eyes of the electorate credibility is not apparent. The Kenyan populace is sufficiently high-tech to know when they are being taken for the beat about the bush. In the logical back drop of all this, will Kenyans believe and accept the outcome of this year’s presidential elections? Let us put to the death knell this ethnic colonialism/dictatorship that is glossed over as the much-vaunted ‘Tyranny of numbers’ by our current ruling class. Why does one want bloodshed in this great land of ours? No amount of intimidation will bludgeon Kenyans to accept the result of a tainted process and just move on. Frustration like a raw wound will continue to fester on the collective body of the citizenry. What conscience will the victor of such a flawed process have to celebrate a pre-doctored outcome? Will such a person ever have any legitimacy as a national leader?
Not one to complain, I will attempt to concoct a few remedies:
- Revolutionary as it may seem, it will be a wonderful idea to scrap the entire voter register and create a new list from scratch. It may seem a time consuming and soul-sapping venture but will ultimately be worthwhile in mending the torn credibility fabric. Kenyan peace is also on the line if this is not addressed.
- Visionary leadership from the current president. Call to order your Interior Cabinet secretary and inform him that voter registration and poking elbows on the ribs of the referee body is severely frowned and has no room in your administration. NIS should also be read the riot act and be made to know better and stick to their lane. Otherwise, we will view him as just another African despot complicit in this and keen to profit from the attendant lapse in autonomy, all the while abusing state resources.
- The IEBC secretariat and field staff should be reorganized as a matter of urgency. A renaissance is required in the human resource in the registration and Technical departments. The kits cannot be maintained by amateurs if the cataclysmic failure envisaged by our Attorney general is to be eschewed. Logistical support in technical and infrastructure is mandatory. They are many knowledgeable but unemployed youths. Gainfully engage them.
- Have an independent IEBC system server not breached by outside influence or co-hosting other things. This is too important a function to be co-hosted with some other cock-and-bull organization under the guise of cost-cutting. We all remember the events of last elections that one Dennis Itumbi had to labouriously yet unconvincingly justify. Also edify the polling clerks on the requisite passwords and PINs for the software to work the system. Also remember to carry to the polling stations spare batteries, chargers, solar charging systems, UPS and all that pertains.
- Rein in on politicians engaging in voter bribery, hate speech and violent posturing. You have the mechanisms to deem these unfortunate characters ineligible for the polls. Wield that axe now. This country is for us all and not just for somebody’s mum.
- No more ‘Chicken-gate’ type scandals in IEBC procurement.
- Voter Education is key. This should be your obligation and not a public service gimmick. Enlighten the citizenry both on the need to vote and facilitate the process.
- Take action on genuine complaints from all parties. Some may seem like perennial cry-babies but are raising reasonable qualms. Prevention is better than cure. This will be good for the non-partisan image.
Why should Kenya; previously viewed as a harbinger of democracy, be left to slip down to such a level as to have the likes of Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal, Malawi, Tanzania and even backwater Gambia in front of us as more mature democracies where an incumbent can lose the elections and make no attempt to influence the poll? All of us must jealously guard our position as a constitution abiding democracy and one of the better students of good governance.
My parting shot to Mr. Chebukati, do not fall victim to compromise and blackmail. Jealously guard your independence and fiercely enforce it. The elephant in the room. A few attribute your rise to prominence to an attempt by the ruling coalition to eat into a major part of the constituency regarded as an opposition stronghold in Bungoma and Trans Nzoia by selecting you to hoodwink your community of government ‘favour’ together with Wabukhala and Chiloba. My advice; even if you got this position through patronage, I dare aver without fear of contrition and an unmatched conviction that Kenya is greater than the progenitor of your being in this position. As such even if favoured, show yourself as your own man and exercise an unbridled streak of independence in the execution of your mandate. You could have been set up to fail but shame the Devil. The ball is now in your court.