Non-partisan leadership: key requirement in streamlining the IEBC
By PAUL JUMA
The country’s electoral body like any other has a great level of responsibility bestowed upon it. It is key in delivering a peaceful election through results grounded on validity and reliability as in any research to qualify as credible. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has this mandate bestowed upon it with leaders within the institution meant to steer the ship within its constitutional mandate and Kenya Vision 2030 as per its Strategic Plan 2020-2024. However, this ship can only sail through the turbulent waters of elections under non-partisan leadership stemming from its enabling core values of inter alia accountability, integrity and an adherence to the rule of law. However, this has in many cases presented its fair share of challenges and doubts raising questions on the leadership competence of Wafula Chebukati as the Chairman of the country’s electoral body. The Commission has been accused of biasness on many occasions and may likely be emanating from a non-partisan leadership within the commission. Otherwise, does Chebukati meet the mark as a nonpartisan leader?
Nonpartisan leadership in the world of politics involves offering leadership that is not politically inclined to particular stakeholders, which in this case may amount to politicians or political parties. It is a form of leadership rid of biasness and one focused on fairness in its functions without fear or favour. Especially for a country like Kenya which has a past history of polarized politics, this form of leadership is a gateway that offers a safe and trusted space for elections where all stakeholders trust the electoral body to deliver credible results that will forge future leaders. Basically, it requires stakeholders to be served equally without favoritism over counterparts. It is a form of leadership that must offer balance especially in the political scene and in the midst of distressing divisions threatening the stability of a country. This form of leadership demands high professional ethics with integrity place at the top among values a nonpartisan leader should possess.
On the Kenyan front, there have been calls to enhance credibility and effectiveness of the electoral process. The country has on numerous elections been forced to grapple with a polarized political environment that then entangled defunct electoral bodies in a political web, only serving the interests of those who put their best foot forward financially or in any other form of brown envelope. As a result, it is not once or twice or even thrice that the country has fallen into electoral violence but several times since the commencement of multipartyism. And is every reason why Kenyans must be intolerant of an electoral system that tends to incline itself towards other leaders, serving their interests with total disregard of the rule of law while undermining the Constitution and the right to democracy.
Chairman Wafula Chebukati must be cognizant of the fact that the pendulum of political power never stops swinging, and that he has a responsibility to serve Kenyans with the highest level of professionalism but it seems his view is always clouded by hubris that makes him fail to see where he constantly errs as a leader or is just plain intentional. The numerous complaints raised on his leadership has already created bad blood among leaders with many raising complaints of illegal procurement and favouritism thus appearing as a leader with an already established political inclination. This has as a result brewed bad blood for a party like the Orange Democratic Movement lasting for over ten years with allegation after allegation laid on the commission.
Even within the Commission, there have been a multiplicity of internal wrangles among its leadership, with commissioners who resigned raising doubts on a Chebukati leadership right from 2017, with infighting being a common area of concern. Therefore, would the country be doing itself any good if we continued to hold on to a leadership that is not trusted by the general public as well as a section of leaders. And with the fragility of the 2022 elections, being a transition period of leadership, won’t the country be taking a risk in contending with an institution riddled by negative outliers and untrusted leaders?
Is it time to restructure the IEBC and have a totally new crop of Commissioners inclusive of those who have been recently appointed? Is it worth to take the risk of still having Chebukati as a Chairman despite all the complaints? Change can be disruptive but necessary and Parliament’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee must not hesitate to institute the much-needed reforms lest the IEBC becomes a reason for polarized elections. Time is of essence.