Friday, 13 July 2012

Integrity issues and the Civil Society

Integrity is the catchword for the 2013 elections. According to, integrity is a noun that means honesty and the state of being whole; adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; moral uprightness.

Chapter 6 of the Kenya constitution goes further to define clearly what integrity and leadership should be about in Article 73 (2) and how those principles are applied to State Officers.

In the coming elections, a lot of new parameters and instruments will be in place as concerns integrity. There is the IEBC, who have stated that they will require that each candidate receives a certificate of clearance from the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission. There is the NCIC that will be (hopefully) keeping an eye out for Hate Speech Vis a Vis Freedom of Speech among other activities that may threaten the stability of the nation. There are several campaigns ongoing that promote a nationalistic spirit among Kenyans, a denouncing of tribal focused politics and cohesion among the different communities in Kenya.

In fact, the Kenya government seems to have vigorously sought to put measures in place so as to avoid at all costs a repeat of the controversies, violence and power brokering that occurred during the last elections. All that is left thus to wrangle over, is the matter of integrity of the aspirants.

The civil society through organizations like the Kenya Human Rights Commission now seeks to define who fits into the bill, as far as integrity and leadership is concerned, and to do so for the electorate. What is rather hypocritical about this stand are the blatant undemocratic values in such an ideology. The idea that a non-elected, non-governmental society can seek to pre-select candidates for democratic elections is truly a hatred of democracy in that the principles and choice of free, fair and representative elections and democratically elected leadership is wrested from the fingers of the electorate. You cannot pre-select candidates, for elections.

I am sure the civil society considers themselves in many ways to be pseudo-experts in matters of defining integrity. So much so, that even the IEBC, even the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission, even the Kenya Judiciary and especially even the Kenyan electorate can not figure out what thresholds political aspirants should meet, such that the civil society must decide for us.

This hullabaloo is rooted in the matter of two presidential aspirants being suspects charged at the ICC. The underlying fear behind this is that both may end up on the ballot, yet they are suspects charged with grave international crime. So the general logic is that suspects of such severe crime should not be allowed to vie for elections, regardless of what their constitutional rights are, regardless of the principles of democracy and justice and regardless of the outcomes of the cases.  It’s mentally disturbing how this logic came about. Apparently, several members of the civil society have a problem understanding the first principle of justice in court matters, that is, that one is innocent until proven guilty and that innocence ties in directly to one’s integrity.

It’s not rocket science after all. Until and unless, an aspirant is proven beyond all reasonable doubt and all appeals seen to their logical conclusion and that aspirant convicted and incarcerated, that aspirant is innocent and has the constitutional right to vie for an election. Seeing as the civil society is not the judiciary, neither are they the trial judges at The Hague, the push to exclude suspects in court cases is not only an injustice, its undemocratic and also unconstitutional.

Moreover, the civil society has no powers accorded to them by the electorate to act as judges or vetting boards. They in fact are acting in contravention of already established bodies, such as the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission, by making these demands. I truly wonder what sort of contorted criteria they are using to come up with the notion that they should in fact conduct such vetting of persons to be on the ballot.

Perhaps we as the citizenry are not as legally savvy as the civil society. But we do know what our democratic right is, and we do know how to read the constitution and we also know what a verdict in a court case means for State Officers. So please, can the civil society show some respect for our opinions, our democratic right to vote for our preferred candidates and the universal principles of justice and freedoms in a democratic society.

You cannot one minute be champion advocates for our democratic right to vote and the next minute curtail those rights and freedoms by pre-selecting who we should vote for. I sincerely wish the civil society would just embrace democracy and justice for its universal applicability and not attempt to distort issues with some sense of twisted morality; I mean really, that’s a lack of integrity.

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