Issack Hassan has the damndest job in
possibly the world. As chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries
Commission, he has the onerous task of maintaining the independence and
impartiality of the commission in practice as well as in the perception of the
public. Unfortunately for him, it seems that every single step the electoral
body takes towards preparing for the next election is criticized and interfered
with such intense scrutiny that rumors quickly take the place of facts in the
It all started more than 2 years ago, when the poor man was commissioner in the now defunct IIEC. Even in the run up to the referendum, IIEC faced great challenges maintaining its perception of independence in the media, despite its established practices and lessons learned from the 2007 elections and despite express measures to ensure that none of the irregularities mentioned in the Kriegler report would be repeated. As the results of the referendum came in, there were no complaints of double voter registration, no rumors of rigging. And guess what, IIEC used manual voter registration in majority of the polling stations, with some stations using biometric voter registration kits.
Fast forward to 2012, and suddenly the IEBC is unable to even procuring equipment the biometric voter registration kits without some political faction igniting rumors of who owns what company and how that inevitably will affect the political outcome of the polls. Now, this logic requires the average person to more than stretch his imagination, it requires one to also suspend rationality, ignore history and factual evidence in favor of a conspiracy theory rife with shadow men and phantoms. Even before due diligence was conducted on the company picked to supply the tender, politicians from certain quarters began the rumor mill on who owns it, and how they plan to supply the tender by outsourcing. Some even went as far as declaring that they suspect rigging is the aim behind the company being picked. The main reason that Symphony caught such flack is because its ownership was Kenyan. For reasons best known to these rumormongers, being Kenyan makes a company automatically disqualified from tendering as only non-Kenyans can do a proper job of supplying biometric voter registration kits.
Wisely, the IEBC completed its own due diligence and found that none of the companies that applied for the tender met the requirements stipulated. They then resolved that the best way forward is to use manual voter registration due to time and financial constraints. It’s a very reasonable course of action to take given that one national election had already taken place after the recommendations of the Kriegler report were taken into consideration, and that election was run successfully even with manual voter registration.
Its no secret that the fastest way to guarantee a lack of faith in electoral processes is to undermine, belittle, interfere and criticize the electoral body mandated to conduct the elections. Its not a new strategy, rather, the ECK faced the exact same vitriol in the run up to the 2007 elections. It’s the sort of root behavior that sets in, destroys the confidence of the public in constitutional offices and thereby in that dark limbo of uncertainty, politicians can then declare the process flawed, rigged and soon after a call for mass action is given.
It’s the same old script used 5 years ago, by an unscrupulous lot. The only way, to see through the haze of fear mongering being blown out by these politicians is to just look at the facts.
The facts are that manual voter registration has been used before during the referendum, by the IIEC and there were no worrying irregularities reported. The facts are that IEBC has given reasonable cause as to why they have resorted to manual registration. The facts are that IEBC will have no problem hiring 50,000 Kenyans willing to do the work of registering their fellow citizens. The facts are that the actions of undermining and constantly berating and criticizing the IEBC are designed to ruin voter confidence in the independence and the constitutional mandate of the IEBC and its commissioners. The facts are that any company, even Kenyan, can tender to supply the IEBC and indeed any other constitutional commission in Kenya and should they fit the requirements, they have the right to receive that tender without automatically raising suspicion.
The IEBC is supposed to be independent, yet its every action is accompanied by rumors and emotions whipped up by politicians. I think its time Kenyans matured enough to discard rumors, and to embrace rationality. Whether using manual registers or BVRs, the IEBC remains an independent body, which has proven itself capable of conducting elections in an effective and professional manner. It’s an outright shame that politicians are undermining its independence, which is constitutionally enshrined.