IEBC must ensure comprehensive election preparedness
By SELINA CHITERI
It is a deep dark past and one which will forever be Kenya’s reality, when all hell broke lose in a country that was enjoying relative peace but with matters boiling deep within. Fear and anxiety had drenched the air and was out of deep hate that had brewed amongst the people who had glorified their differences in tribe and political ideologies and seemingly went out of control. But then, there was the now defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya chaired by the late Samuel Kivuitu, which missed the mark in delivering credible elections. With so much at stake, so bad was the situation that the then chairman after an initially announcing a Kibaki victory later declared that he did not know who had won. An undecisive Commission was the last thing that Kenyans wanted to hear and this appeared to have fueled more anger, as it appeared to have lost grip of the elections.
Among other reasons that led to the widespread poll violence throughout the country, the commission appeared to have failed on its mandate and was an indicator of their dismal level of preparedness, characterized by confusion that ensued. And as we speak right now, Kenya is on the verge of entering another electioneering period which will be undertaken by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, being the commission currently in-charge of delivering free, fair and credible elections. Out of the country’s repetitive poll violence the IEBC must thereby put its best foot forward to ensure that the elections are run in a seamless manner with no security or logistical lapses encountered as this will have a direct impact on the confidence towards the commission and the credibility of the election itself. But then what is the Commission’s level of preparedness, are the officials aware of the growing anxiety levels? From the country’s past experiences, elections are a highly politically emotive affair and one wrong move can trigger violence.
Being at the centre stage of the elections, the IEBC is constitutionally mandated to ensure the delivery of free, fair and credible elections where eligible voters can express their will freely, without violence, threats, intimidation or coercion. This means that they must be able to successfully prepare and manage elections in a peaceable environment, allowing Kenyans to peacefully carry out their democratic right of voting. The Commission must as well work with other stakeholders to better coordinate their functions in a safe and secure manner whilst ensuring voter education and awareness is carried out effectively. These preparations also revolve around issues touching on voter registration, audit of the register, nomination of candidates by parties, election technology deployment and results management, among others
As part of its preparations, the IEBC recently launched its 2020-2024 Strategic Plan that sets out its strategic goals and objectives meant to be realized within the stipulated planning period. This is a major step towards the right direction as it gives the Commission as well the Country a roadmap on how political events in the country are likely to play out. In its preparations the plan factors in necessary skills, structures, systems and resources that will facilitate delivery of their mandate that touches on elections, boundary delimitation and sustainable democracy. With such a framework the Commission is better perceived by the country including politicians and the general public to be well in control of the 2022 Election preparations.
However, under its SWOT Analysis, ‘Mistrust and negative public perception is highlighted as its first threat among others and this is a clear indicator that public perception is of paramount importance. Also recognizing its challenges, and even having undertaken a post-election evaluation report, the Commission should device ingenious ways to ensure the legislature makes timely amendments on the relevant laws to allow for their operationalization. Currently there are three laws yet to be amended and may have far-reaching negative impacts if not done so. These include the Election Campaign Financing (Amendment) Bill 2020, The Referendum Bill and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
The Commission must not lag behind with the limited timeline it has putting also into consideration of a pending Building Bridges Initiative Case that may or may not alter its preparations. With its constrained timelines early preparatory arrangements will enable the Commission to assure the public delivery of a peaceful elections devoid of confusion and violence.
Ms Chiteri is a communications consultant and graduate student in corporate communication. [email protected]