Let it not be said that we were not forewarned. I will be ecstatic to be proven wrong, but we are at a point when all indications suggest that we are headed for trouble with our elections. So we would be wise to prepare ourselves mentally, physically and in all ways possible.
Last week I quoted an extract from the Court of Appeal judgment on the finality of results at the polling stations to highlight a key point. After the High Court invalidated election regulations that purported to give the Independent Electoral and Boundaries chairperson the power to alter, tamper or otherwise “verify” results from the polling stations, the IEBC gazetted new regulations that restored the impugned provisions, even as it was appealing the High Court decision!
It is not incompetence or a mistake to try to circumvent a court order. It is bad faith, as the Court of Appeal stated. It is also criminal contempt of court, and subversion of justice. And it is abuse of office by the IEBC commissioners and chief executive officer. When people believe they can subvert the law – in flagrante delicto – then you know we are in a deeper hole than we think. For what else will this IEBC do to get what they want?
It is frustrating that it seems the only way to get the IEBC to follow the law is by taking it to court. IEBC seems stuck in the old ways of doing things even when the Constitution has mandated new ways, new approaches and a new spirit. Is this institutional lethargy or is this about using an old system that delivers exactly what those in power want?
Why should the IEBC wait for a court case on public inspection of the register? In 2013, the IEBC gave political parties copies of the register the day before the elections, making it impossible to inspect it. Remember that verification by individuals is not inspection. Verification simply confirms that one is on the register, while public inspection allows us all to look at the register, polling station by polling station, to see if we can recognise dead people on the register, or other patently false names and identification numbers. And we need time to go through all this, especially to ascertain if indeed the IEBC has “cleaned” up the register, and otherwise tightened its procedures around the register as recommend by the KPMG audit.
Inspection need not be confrontational. In fact, a transparent and accountable IEBC would welcome the public’s help in cleaning the register not only to give us confidence, but also as a way to a credible process. For stealing of elections always starts with the register.
Despite the Court of Appeal decision, the matter of Al-Ghurair Printing and Publishing is yet another worry. Consider that in October 2016, the former IEBC commissioners purported to award the company the tender. After court challenges, the new IEBC commissioners were invited to re-tender in February 2017, giving them more than adequate time for that. Instead, they waited till June 9 then awarded the company the tender by single-sourcing. Ezra Chiloba was CEO for both sets of commissioners, and it will be fascinating to know why this fixation with Al-Ghurair Printing and Publishing. The truth may yet out.
The IEBC tells us that 98 per cent of the electronic gadgets have been tested and are working.
They want us to take them at their word, even after exhibiting opaqueness and bad faith. It is like the regime telling us the all the Eurobond money came into public coffers but they still redact the account number where $1 billion dollars went! Or the Anti-Corruption Commission clearing Anne Waiguru of wrongdoing around the NYS looting, before starting investigations!
With all these issues with us, imagine what may happen if the electronic gadgets are made to fail. Or if the server is made to crash. Or if there is not enough light in polling stations to allow open and transparent counting of votes.
“And Jesus…said to them, “…do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:17-18)
Maina Kiai is a human rights activist and co-director of InformAction.