CA out of order to cow media

The law, as clarified by the courts, states that the final official results of an election will be announced by returning officers at the constituency tallying centre.

The presidential vote will be transmitted directly to be tallied and “officially” announced at the national centre at the Bomas of Kenya. The results for woman rep, senator and governor will be transmitted from polling centres for tallying at the county centre and results announced there.

It is worth repeating that once announced at the constituency centre, the presidential results will be transmitted directly to the IEBC national tallying centre for the specific purpose of just adding them up and making the “official” announcement.

The transmission will be live so any Kenyan with access to a television can add up the numbers. This means if the media wasn’t able to deploy reporters in all 41,000 polling stations, they have the chance to collate data from the IEBC’s own transmission.

The person legally mandated with making results official at the constituency is not the IEBC chairman or CEO of the Communications Authority of Kenya, but the RO, an employee of the IEBC. The job of the IEBC chairman isn’t to count, but merely to collate figures as received and announce the presidential winner, a fact most Kenyans would probably have known.

Indeed, with “official” results being counted, authenticated by agents and results announced publicly at polling stations prior to being transmitted to the constituency centre, any interested party – candidates, observers, IEBC, political parties, media – would have already tallied the polling stations results.

The constituency and Bomas tallying is a formality, political parties, candidates, media and keen observers would have results long before the IEBC “announces” them.

Does the law criminalise anyone knowing the results before the IEBC announces them? The IEBC will be announcing initial results throughout until they make the final call. Hence, the fixation with the IEBC being the only legitimate agency to announce “official” results isn’t in contention, after all, it will announce results continuously from the polling stations, at the constituency and at Bomas.

This is why IEBC boss Wafula Chebukati and CA director general Francis Wangusi’s repeated “warnings” against anyone else tallying and announcing results other than the IEBC sounds like a smokescreen for some murky business.

That the CA could be contemplating doing wicked bidding for the IEBC gives credence to a recent NASA warning that the electoral commission has recruited some state agencies’ allies to explain away its nefarious ways.

Wangusi’s was perhaps the legal oddity when he found it necessary to issue a threat against media announcing results before the IEBC in a gathering of security agencies’ bigwigs on Monday. His attempt to intimidate the media is misinformed, latter-day impunity and has no legal backing.

The CA isn’t mandated with conducting, let alone announcing, election results. It isn’t Wangusi’s role, therefore, to issue such an illegal and bizarre postulation. The media, like other election watchers, will be legitimately within the law to make the call for any contest if they are able to obtain “official” results announced at 41,000 polling stations as stipulated in law.

The IEBC, and not the CA, can censor or correct media if they get their numbers wrong, but it’s not the business of the CA to gag the media on behalf of the IEBC. The CA had better stick to the enviable responsibility of providing internet so results transmission will be smooth rather than threaten media. And therein lies the catch; was Wangusi’s disguised threat about flouting a non-existent law a precursor to plans to switch off newsrooms?

It is such a draconian fiasco presided over by the then Internal Security minister John Michuki that sparked widespread post-election bloodshed in 2008. Anyone contemplating a media blackout either wasn’t around during the aftermath of the muddied 2007 election and hasn’t read Judge Kriegler’s Report or is daft.

What’s then in contention is which laws bar political parties, candidates and media from making their own conclusions – or what to Americans is making the call – based on official tallies at any one of the IEBC toll stations?

None. The media must remain steadfast. Reporting what RO’s would have announced is legitimate news gathering and reporting.

Communications, Publications and Conflict Management Specialist, University of Nairobi

[email protected],

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