By John Githongo via the Star
Did A Million Ghosts Vote? Does It Matter?
Last Thursday, The Star published a seemingly innocuous piece titled â€˜IEBC wants Political Parties Act amendedâ€™. The amendment, the report explained, was because the IEBC is now considering changing the way of “calculating funding for the parties”.
Currently, the Act â€˜provides that political partiesâ€™ funding should be computed on the basis of election votes. The new proposed formula is based on the number of elected representatives that each party has.
“As a result, and unsurprisingly, political parties have been pushing the IEBC to hurry up with its final release of results â€˜so that they can work out how much state funding they are entitled to”.
To date, however, the IEBC has not â€˜finalisedâ€™ the exact figures from the March 4 election and “there are allegedly still substantial differences between the presidential and parliamentary numbers.”
IEBC MUST MOVE QUICKLY TO RECONCILE DATA
The report carried what I, in hindsight, considered a startling revelation. One of the IEBCâ€™s commissioners was recorded as having said, “We are having sleepless nights reconciling the presidential results and those of the other positions. Over a million votes must be reconciled with the others and if the requirement is not changed, then it will cast the IEBC in a negative lightâ€¦”
The IEBC was thus reported to have devised three options that would resolve the impasse. The concern â€˜of casting the IEBC in a negative lightâ€™ was a little rich. That said, the commissionerâ€™s admission itself was deeply troubling about the overall integrity of the polls.
A million irregularly introduced ie rigged votes would take the overall result of the presidential election closer to the scientific pre-election opinion polls and the exit polls that have emerged since, like that from Harvard University that called a close race between Uhuru and Odinga.
Then, last weekend the Daily Nation carried a long interview with Raila Odinga in which he discussed both the elections and his future plans without a hint of bitterness. Here too my attention was captured by the remarks he was reported to have made:
â€œBut this idea that there were some areas where there was 95 per cent or 100 per cent turn-out is a myth. Because if you look at the records, the average turn-out was 72 per cent for county reps, for women reps, for MPs, for governors, for senators but only for the presidential 86 per cent. What accounts for that difference?… They were stuffing ballot papers and that was the evidence that we wanted to adduce in court that over one million people turned up for the ballot and only voted for the presidency and not for the others.â€
Some of the top experts on election matters â€“ both Kenyan and foreign â€“ have been pleading ever more insistently for the IEBC to release the full results of elections held almost three months ago.
To them, this admission that essentially around one million more Kenyans voted for the presidential candidates but did not vote for any of the other offices (Governor, Senator, MP etc) was a bombshell. After all, none of the multiple teams of election observers noted what surely would have been difficult to miss: one million voters casting presidential ballots and deciding not to vote for any other of the offices.
Nor has IEBC reported five million spoilt votes spread out amongst the other five offices, which would have been the expected result if all these voters had somehow managed to cast only one of their allotted six ballots right â€“ the other plausible explanation. So the one million ghosts in the books are a problem.
SO WHAT NOW FOR KENYA?
It is ironically comforting to many that the gut feeling that something slick, big and nasty was likely pulled off at the last election is seemingly now proving to be more and more likely correct.
This is notwithstanding the sometimes garbled reassuring statements by both local and foreign observers whose positions at the time were not backed up by what Kenyans saw with their own eyes. It is always a relief to realise you did not dream something up.
Little can be changed at this stage; we need to â€œmove onâ€ as Kenyans are being constantly urged to do. I am among those who believe national cohesion can only be achieved if a majority of Kenyans donâ€™t believe in the malevolent â€˜tyranny of numbersâ€™ narrative that seems to have laid the ground for subsequent events.
To be blunt, it is important that the majority of Kenyans from all races and tribes believe that there are enough Gikuyus who donâ€™t appear to ascribe to the conviction that one ethnic community must lord it over all others in perpetuity.
That so many are not convinced that this is the case is the source of the most furious resentments among non-Gikuyus â€“ and the source of a rapidly dwindling interest in the project of nationhood â€“ ironically at the very historical moment that the country celebrates a significant milestone â€“ 50 years since the end of colonial rule.
All this brings us to grips with our present condition, for better or for worse. That we reached here without the kind of violence we saw in 2008 is a good thing. Second, we acknowledge the reality that Kenya has a legally sworn-in head of state; cabinet secretaries and other functionaries are being appointed.
We have a government and matters of everyday life can proceed. On the economic front, the government has been making all the correct noises. It is now in an enviable position of translating its pre-election promises to reality – ensuring that our growth delivers jobs for the youth, for example.
Potentially exciting times indeed, what with the huge economic potential promised by the combined coincidence of a critical mass of energetic, young, educated and entrepreneurial African â€˜human capitalâ€™; massive external economic interest in Africa; the discovery of a range of minerals etc â€“ there is indeed great promise that Kenya could be on the verge of a take-off to that dream envisioned at independence.
However, there still remains important cleaning up to do with regard to our election processes and institutions. Indeed, I would argue, we need to rethink the first-past-the-post system in its entirety.
It has brought us much grief: a more volatile polity; tribal division compounded by festering anger and generally less social cohesion, ironically, than when Moi was president of Kenya.
No election is perfect, however, this one was the worst ever in terms of the sheer scale of divergence between public expectations and actual performance by the electoral body.
We have now had two apparently fraudulent elections in a row where the fraud was televised, SMSed, tweeted and generally widely reported on, especially during and since the court case that followed contestation of the presidential results.
That said, regardless of the manipulations, the voting pattern â€“ largely along tribal lines â€“ told us a great deal about ourselves. It also forces difficult questions upon us.
THE FIRST KENYAN REPUBLIC HAS GIVEN UP THE GHOST
For starters, what is the point of people participating in national elections if it is believed by a critical mass of the population that certain pivotal positions are reserved for certain communities, based not on ability but on ancestry?
What does people believing this mean for Kenya? First it explains the generally foul mood of many middle class Kenyans who are neither Gikuyu nor Kalenjin.
A Nigerian friend made the observation last week that the contradictions inherent in the current ruling tribal alliance are so vast that it shall wobble too with time forcing a â€˜militarisation of consentâ€™ both formally and informally; both judicially and extra judicially.
Iâ€™m not so sure it is possible to militarise consent in Kenya. It has been attempted in northern Kenya since before independence and the project has never really been a total success.
Trying the same in say, the Rift Valley, would be an ambitious prospect. Instead, crime and ethnic cleansing on a voluntary basis has swept across entire swathes of the country.
Secondly, we are slowly coming to terms with the fact that the First Kenyan Republic has given up the ghost. The Second Republic under our 2010 constitution is the Tribal Nation â€“ before all things in the way we relate to one another outside the realm of simple transactions.
Prof. Ogot was correct in April 2006 when he declared the Kenya Project as conceived by the African nationalists who breathed life into the attempts at Nations that colonialism left behind – dead. A more complex beast is emerging. More on this next timeâ€¦