It was meant to create “a common understanding” on the election process with all players.
In fact, in the run up to the three-day National Elections Conference which ended on June 14, IEBC had rallied election stakeholders to buy into their preparations ahead of the August 8 General Election.
But it ended up being a fire-fighting spree, with the headlines shifting from the IEBC’s big message of everyone working towards a peaceful and credible election to the nagging questions of just how the IEBC will hold the very elections with all those queries.
The “Working Together towards a Credible and Peaceful General Election” theme of the meeting was scuppered in the ballot papers tender bombshell that has left the IEBC scrambling to contain the political fallout over the choice of the supplier of the 120 million ballot papers and statutory election results declaration forms.
“In the context of bringing different stakeholders together to appraise IEBC, it was good.
As observers, we were allowed to share our concerns while other institutions were able to showcase what they are doing to ensure peaceful, credible and transparent elections.
But if unifying the key players was IEBC’s expectation, then it was far-fetched.
It would be important that IEBC understood that people are jittery and do everything above board.
We are now going into this election with very high trust deficit,” said Elections Observation Group (Elog) executive director Mulle Musau.
Instead of working together towards the elections, IEBC and the main political formations, Nasa and Jubilee Party, appear more divided than ever over the single-sourcing of the ballot papers tender to the Dubai firm, Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing.
“We have not even started talking of the voter register, which to me is a bigger story than the ballot paper tender. Unfortunately, this and the conference have been overshadowed by operational issues of ballot paper tendering,” added Mr Musau.
IEBC lost the conference’s key objective as soon as Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga spoke.
In his speech, Mr Odinga claimed that top Jubilee officials had met and possibly influenced the award of the Sh2.5 billion ballot printing tender to Al-Ghurair.
After the claim, the IEBC heads, chairman Wafula Chebukati and chief executive Ezra Chiloba took a break from the conference, re-emerging on the last day, after issuing a statement on the matter.
Not all was lost though, Mr Odinga had told them.
“As I have said elsewhere, the IEBC as currently constituted, particularly at the level of commissioners, has been more responsive to stakeholders than the previous one,” he said in his speech.
“But that is not a good enough standard,” he went on. It is a case of comparing the worst and the good.
There is serious room for improvement, although time is quickly running out,” said Mr Odinga.
The conference was structured under thematic areas of lessons from previous elections, the legal framework, conflict mitigation and dispute resolution, electoral integrity, electoral operations and technology, and the role of the media.