By Silas Jakakimba
Kenya is still recovering from the violence that visited the country after the 2007 general elections. On February 28, 2008, Kofi Annan made the unforgettable remarks: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a deal.”
With this ODM leader Raila Odinga and PNU’s Mwai Kibaki agreed to form a grand coalition government to restore peace and set the country on a new path of strengthening governance institutions and constitutional reforms.
Consequently, the Kriegler Commission was formed to among other things, analyse the constitutional and legal framework, and identify weaknesses and inconsistencies in the electoral laws, and investigate the organisation and conduct of the 2007 electoral operations.
Fast forward to March 4, 2013, presidential elections and Kenya was facing a false start in its quest to instill public confidence in the electoral process evidenced by collapse of electronic voting system, declaration by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission that Uhuru Kenyatta was the President-elect, presidential petition at the Supreme Court, the â€˜Democracy on Trialâ€™ address by Raila Odinga, and unending cases against top IEBC officials.
I have revisited the Kriegler report and the March 2013, elections to bring into focus two important areas that we must decide to confront as a people if we are to have free, fair, independent and accountable elections in future. The first one relates to a remark once made by Kriegler – that the overall integrity of an election and its results are as good as the integrity of the persons charged with overseeing the process. This seems to be proved by the nature of cases now levelled against IEBC officials.
Second, Iâ€™m a first hand witness to confessions by top IEBC officials all which can be summarised as: Kenyan elections will never be free, fair, independent and accountable so long as the security organs remain key players in the process. It is unfathomable that Mr Dismas Ongâ€™ondi, the director at IEBC, ICT department, was declared a persona non grata at a Kasarani base where data was being fed into the Evids.
In his own confession to me on March 12, 2013, Mr Ongâ€™ondi says when he attempted to pass by Kasarani, he was sent away and was even â€˜reportedâ€™ to his seniors. This incident, just like it worried Mr Ongâ€™ondi, left me as baffled as any other Kenyan would, because it is not easy to believe that IEBC’s head of ICT could be barred from having a peep on the management of electronic voting system that was being operated from a temporary station at Kasarani.
It is also not lost on me that former CEO of IEBC Mr James Oswago, just after March 4, 2013, led me through highly private and confidential conversation that was as mind-boggling as it was scary. Scary because the long and short of his own remarks pointed to deep conspiracies and well-executed infiltration and interference with the whole process, by highly placed individuals at Interior and Coordination Ministry and National Intelligence Service.
He went ahead to say these officials manipulated recruitment of a top IEBC official later, crucial to (mis)handling of the electronic aspects of the elections.
He said: â€œWe decided as a commission to let it be since there was no way we were going to face Kenyans and tell them elections could not take place because of these.â€ He also added the commission agreed to use fake voter register crafted by NIS and passionately went ahead to discredit and dismiss the â€˜high voter turn-out in the Rift Valley and Central Provinceâ€™, and proposed: â€œInsist that my chairman be summoned to say what he knows.
His faith does not allow him to lie on oath. A rerun is inevitable. But you people must insist that the chief secretary and intelligence chief are kept as far away from these processes as possible.”
Some months ago, I saw a tough-talking IEBC chairman claiming that Oswago did not make remarks attributed to him (Oswago) in the Dailies and in an Investigative series. IEBC acting CEO Betty Sungura-Nyabuto, went ahead to discredit these as usual â€œopposition allegations, which they even made in March 2013, regarding Mr Oswagoâ€™s alleged disappearance from Bomasâ€.
Nothing can be further from the truth. During this â€˜disappearance windowâ€™, the outgone CEO was involved in a tight internal war with the commissioners and chairman, and on record did a protest memo indicating he was ready to â€œgo public” if the commission continued asking returning officers to make (illegal) changes at Bomas. In a nutshell, many things went wrong and several could have been done better.
Finally, Cord has among other referendum agendas set out strengthening the independence of the electoral infrastructure. But even if the referendum goes through, it is highly doubtable if Kenya will ever have credible elections if Oswagoâ€™s and Ongâ€™ondiâ€™s confessions are anything to go by. I have the notes. There are the undeniable voices. IEBC is about to recruit a new CEO. As Kenyans, we can only hope it will be a clean process.
Year 2017, just like 2007 and 2013, will be no different unless the role of captains of security sector in elections is limited to security guarantee only. Cry my beloved country, cry.
The writer, a Fmr Aide to Raila Odinga, is a PhD Candidate (University of Nairobi) and a Governance and Democracy Fellow (Great Lakes Region) with the African Democratic Institute.