Monday, October 24, 2011

IEBC: For fair elections Kenya, Africa still has a long way to go

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki votes in a general election
The quest to establish Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) which saw the interviewing of 44 and 8 commissioners and chair from 427 and 15 applicants respectively. The process was led by Dr Ekuro Aukot.

The commission will afterwards send for approval the commissioners to parliament and three recommended for the position of chair to President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila who will later forward a name to legislature for further approval.

The major task of IEBC will be to run the first national and county elections in Kenya in a simple, secure and transparent manner to avoid a repeat of bloodshed and rigging which engulfed the country in 2007/08 violence.

Sadly although the process is laudable, Kenya and Africa still have a long way to go for fair elections that can promote democracy even after a century since the first country in the continent gained independence. During the process, the same cocktail of events that saw the now defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) led by Samuel Kivuitu putting the country bin chaos is at play again.

Foremost in young democracies like Kenya electoral bodies are weak institutions backed by weak laws and judiciary which makes them prone to interference from politicians. The manner at which election tallying and counting was carried out at KICC and the aftermath avalanche of petitions showed this flaw.

This can be the case if legislations like Political Parties Act still not enacted prior to 2012 which will tie IEBC’s hand in regulating how parties elect candidates and how to settle elections disputes and petitions arising from results.

Equally, vested interests by politicians will risk causing havoc even before the new body is formed. Eldoret North MP William Ruto is leading a section of politicians who vow to vote against the team in parliament. On the other hand the debate of the exact date for next year general election is bound to raise political temperatures further.

Reading danger from these squabbles Koffi Annan, former UN Secretary General, and a member of Eminent Persons that bore the coalition government from 2007/08 violence has warned politicians from interfering with the process.

Lastly tribalism is a thorn to democracy with debate from some quarters observing that even though the gender equality was observed, 50% of some candidates were from one ‘region’ which doesn’t reflect ‘the face’ of Kenya.

These disputes coupled with impunity where violence suspects walk away with prosecution are some of the challenges facing democracy and electoral bodies like IEBC not only in Kenya but also in Africa.

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