In the past two weeks, the political scene was dominated by two principal actors who played complementary roles in the nomination of candidates for political office.
These are the various political parties that processed the nomination of their members, and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Both players fell way short of people’s expectations. They conspired and turned the nominations into a shameful charade. Whereas we all know these political parties are neither democratic nor well funded and, in some instances, privately owned – and Kenyans are too willing to excuse their failures – the calamitous performance by the IEBC was more profound.
Kenyans have rarely been critical of the IEBC even when the commission would have benefited from some biting criticism. A number of factors inform this undeserved deference. First, because of the reconstruction of the commission and the process of its reconstitution, the commission is seen as an improvement on its predecessor.
Second, Kenyans simply don’t want to think for a moment what would happen if the commission bungled the election as it happened in 2007. This is one commission that forced many Kenyans into silence using fear as immunity from public scrutiny.
Third, the commission has successfully conducted the constitutional referendum and a number of by-elections.
These positives have negative counterweights. First, the voter registration was the same as five years ago, showing a poor penetration. Second, voter education has never been more dismal. Third – and this is where all the problems emanate from – the commission is not very transparent when it comes to money matters. It has failed one test after another where procurement and financial probity are concerned.
The issues of financial management have a profound bearing on electoral integrity. If the IEBC can’t pass the test of financial integrity, Kenyans shouldn’t expect it to pass electoral probity and integrity. The latest query it faces is the procurement of ballot papers which were described by a High Court judge as “indiscriminate and clandestine”.
We all hear how this tender was single-sourced by one official and how many millions of dollars he was given. I don’t want to remind Kenyans how the biometric kit tender worth Sh3 billion ended up costing the taxpayer Sh8 billion, and how the difference was shared out. And we are silent on all these because of our fears.
Coming back to the conduct of the IEBC on the nomination process, I saw danger signs of a systemic lack of integrity, disregard for the law, lack of political independence, pandering to politicians and outright corruption.
This I observed first-hand as a lawyer who participated in the process. This is worrying in that, having seen how some of the commissioners cut corners with the law and integrity, what guarantees do we have that the same commissioners will not do the same on March 4?
The IEBC deliberately turned a blind eye to the law. It refused to adhere to the law. For instance, candidates who did multiple defections were given nomination certificates contrary to the law.
Candidates with multiple party certificates were cleared. Influential politicians were consulted in hotel rooms by members of the commission on how to rule on sensitive cases.
Most alarming, and this out of my civic duty, I have shared my utter disbelief with the chairman of the commission on the conduct of a commissioner.
This commissioner, using male relatives, was calling parties with cases before the commissioners and soliciting bribes. His modus operandi was to inform the victim that he already had an offer from the complainant and that he would rule in favour of the accused if the counter offer was better. Can we entrust such a commissioner with our fate on March 4? I have my fears.
Ahmednasir Abdullahi is the publisher, Nairobi Law Monthly ahmednasir@nairobilawmonthly.