Is Kenya ready for free, fair and credible elections? I think not. The result is only as good as the process.
Is Kenya ready for free, fair and credible elections? I think not. The result is only as good as the process.The process towards August 8 is muddied, tainted and corrupted. The IEBC isn’t ready; it’s behind on its timetable, voter targets and is groping around tethered in an unassailable legal quagmire. Public officers have a stay order against resigning to run for elective office and so has the forensic audit of the voters register procurement award. Some say it’s just what Jubilee ordered; ossification to justify postponement of elections or if not steal them.
It’s enough that the IEBC is unable to shed the perception that it is a government appendage; this cursed agency is mired in new allegations of tribalism. Enough has been said about the expediency of having the chair and CEO come from the same community and county. Now it’s the efficacy of having five of its seven directorates manned by persons from one community out of Kenya’s 40-something diverse ethnic groups.
Meanwhile, the concern is with thousands and probably millions of shared ID numbers. No one among the IEBC, Registrar of Political Parties and the Director of Immigration and Registration of Persons, specifically the National Registration Bureau, has the guts to explain how so many people can be allocated one number and proceed to be registered to vote without the anomaly being detected.
The RPP is the depository of political party members, the IEBC keeps the voters register and NRB allocates ID numbers, so when did the bunglers meet?
The Amani National Congress party may have opened a Pandora’s Box, or is it let the cat out of the bag, when it hinted at the possibility of a plot knotting the three agencies. “Jubilee Party’s smartcard is connected to the IEBC voters’ database and strategic technology infrastructure, NRB and RPP data through a software application interfaced using a short code 30553. The software allows Jubilee to access and manipulate IEBC, NRB and RPP databases. It’s like the Kencall deal of 2013,” the party said bluntly.
Only the IEBC attempted to deny connivance but didn’t quite deny the interface allegation. That shyness is quite telling on the credibility of the voter registration exercise — apathy everywhere. But there is more comedy amid sinister happenings: the IEBC is carrying out “civic education” on voter registration concurrently with registration! How that works beats me – some old lady being shown how to place her fingers on the fingerprint reader?
Some Biometric Voters Registration kits just refuse to work. Sometimes they are not working at the same time in an area. And if you approach the Biometric Voter Identification kits to check your voter status one or all of the following happens: your fingerprints can’t be read or they can be read but someone else’s face or ID number pops up. The lucky ones find themselves translocated to far flung polling stations they never registered at.
Now the palaver. Kenya leads Africa as a digital nation. We do almost everything that hitherto required us to be physically present by the touch of a button on the phone. But not so for the IEBC, supported by a ‘digital’ Parliament. You can register anywhere to vote anywhere in Kenya. But to check that the status of your registration is still intact and valid, you go manual and must present yourself at that specific polling station.
Young, educated and unemployed Kenyans just don’t have the luxury of the expense and time to chase after a vote – apathy – and IEBC systems are complicit. At this rate, I don’t really know whether I’ll ever vote digitally in my lifetime.
I haven’t quite put a finger on it, but it’s there lurking in the dark, a malignant desire to send this country into the abyss of conflict and civil war this A ugust. Should we then abandon the election until we sober up? I don’t know; we may need a transitional administration created at Bomas with the express purpose of getting our act together first.