Analysts: Building Bridges Initiative may birth split poll body
Kenya risks having a deeply divided Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) if proposals by the Building Bridges Initiative taskforce that political parties should have a role in recruiting commissioners are adopted, analysts have warned.
The experts have trashed proposed reforms on IEBC, saying they do not guarantee a free and fair election.
Political analyst Prof Hassan Mwakimako of Pwani University said the proposed changes are “very ordinary because they lack innovativeness”.
“The problems in the last General Election were to do with election management system; the report has not touched anything to do with this. To reform election managements we must deal with the software and then the hardware,” he said.
Mwakimako said the proposal to give leaders of parliamentary political parties a role in the recruitment of IEBC commissioners is not new, adding that a similar initiative previously failed as it ended up dividing the election body in the middle.
“This recommendation could plunge the country into a similar situation like that of 2007 when the then Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), led by the late Samwel Kivuitu, was divided on party affiliations.
We all saw what happened at the end because the commissioners were serving their party interests instead of Kenyans,” he said.
Similar sentiments were shared by former Kisauni MP Anania Mwaboza, who warned that allowing political parties to appoint commissioners will fuel wrangles among the officials as each will be pursuing the interests of their political party.
“There is nothing new that the BBI has brought in terms of IEBC reforms, they are returning us to same scenario that we have previously been in. Generally, the proposals on reforming IEBC are a reincarnation,” he said.
Mwaboza said the BBI team did not keenly analyse problems facing IEBC and, therefore, the proposed reforms will not sort out problems facing polls management.
“Each commissioner will be reporting to his master. Kenyans should be wary of this, we could end up in another scenario where the commission is not even able to announce election results because of divisions,” he warned.
Mwaboza, however, said he supports proper vetting of all senior IEBC officials, adding that some of those working in the body have a tainted past.
The Senator Yusuf Haji-led taskforce has recommended that political party leaders “should nominate individuals who are non-partisan, with a record of accomplishment and integrity and who are not known political supporters or activists of the party as IEBC commissioners.”
The taskforce said public faith in the IEBC remains low and, therefore, called for “cleaning” of the body before the next election.
BBI has also recommended that returning officers should be contracted on a part-time basis and should not oversee more than one General Election while all other IEBC staff should be employed on a three-year contract, renewable only once to prevent the continuation of errors.