By. Bishop David Oginde,
They are at it again. Yes, the politicians are full throttle stirring up emotions and setting us up against one another. IEBC and their fate is now the subject of varying opinions and tensed up emotions. As is usual with Kenyans, the comments and stands are as predictable as our ethnic stock. The situation we are faced with has every potential of taking us down the path we trod in 2007, a path that generates genuine angst in the hearts of many Kenyans. Of course not for politicians – they are a different breed. With the first and only interest being self, politicians have no qualms whatsoever dragging the whole nation to war, as long as it serves their cause. South Sudan and Burundi are proximate and recent examples. But, do we have to journey this road? Three teams hold the key.
As the main contender, CORD holds the first key. Ever since the 2013 elections, CORD has argued that IEBC lacks the capacity and credibility to conduct plausible elections. On the other hand, the Commission found itself implicated in an international corruption scandal that saw their European counterparts consigned to prison. In Kenya, nothing has happened. Thus, the Chickengate scandal – as it came to be known – handed the CORD team new ammunition against IEBC. CORD is thus determined to get rid of the commissioners by whatever means – including physically ejecting them from office.
The IEBC has held the position that they have the capacity and an untarnished record of holding credible elections over the last almost five years. The commission contends that though there were teething challenges with the implementation of the electronic voting system, these have been streamlined and, as the Americans would put it, they are good to
go. For the Commission, Chikengate and other alleged scandals are mere figments of the imagination of those with an axe to grind. The Chairman and his team cannot therefore countenance vacating office before the legitimate end of their tenure.
The third and equally critical key is held by the government. Their contention is simple: It is too late in the day to change the referee in such a major contest. And even if it is to be done, it must be done within the confines of the law. Whereas each of these arguments is valid, what Kenyans are hearing are drums of war. We can therefore take sides, sit tight, and pray that all will be well, but history shows otherwise. If the exchanges in the social media are anything to go by, the battle lines are already drawn and daggers unsheathed. No – we must sound the voice of caution.
CORD is perfectly right in pointing out its misgivings about the state of IEBC. Many have voiced similar concerns and called for its reconstitution. This notwithstanding, the move to physically eject the commissioners from their offices cannot be considered legitimate in the current constitutional regime. Other than its desired political effect, it could easily spiral into unintended orgy of violence and destruction that is common with mob activities. Thus, CORD must explore other more civilized routes for dealing with the issues.
That IEBC has lost credibility is not in doubt. What could be discussed is whether this loss is a result of mere perceptions or reality the line between the two is often blurred. However, the onus that this loss brings to the commissioners is heavy. It behooves them to make the choice between self and the nation.
In the legal system, judges often voluntarily disqualify themselves from a case if a party to the suit raises impartiality concerns. Such self-disqualification is not necessarily an admission of guilt but an upholding of the high standards of justice. Thus, whereas IEBC commissioners have a legitimate task to perform, they cannot simply sit tight as the nation drifts into chaos – it is immoral.
While government has the legitimate responsibility to maintain peace and order, how this is done must not undermine the same peace we seek to preserve. One can only imagine what would happen if, for example, Raila was to be injured in a police fracas.
For a fact, we are between the rock and a hard place. As Anne Frank, the little Jewish victim of the German holocaust wrote: “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.” That is why the call for dialogue remains the most excellent way.