CORD leader Raila Odinga recently proclaimed – in what is becoming the norm – that the opposition will boycott the 2017 elections if there is no reforms in the elections body, IEBC.
This threat, empty as it is, reveals part of the problem with ODM in general and Odinga in particular: indecision.
At best, the call can be summed up as idiotic, and supporters should be urged to ignore it, for ODM will participate in the 2017 elections with or without reforms to the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission.
Sometimes when you attend Okoa Kenya rallies, you get the impression that the opposition bluffs a lot, and, on a wide array of over critical issues.
Is it true that IEBC is ‘not reforming’? Yes and No.
Yes, IEBC is not reforming. IEBC has remained, in the words of senator James Orengo, a respected lawyer and second liberation hero ‘an opaque’ institution. The reforms suggested by CORD in the Okoa Kenya Bill are far-reaching. They cannot be achieved by IEBC in its current psychological and structural template (with a rude chairman and naive CEO) and more so, singly.
The reform package being suggested by the opposition CORD is a total ‘re-engineering’ of the electoral institution. It attempts to radically redesign IEBC in such a manner that it will never give room to a Tharaka Nithi moment in future electoral contests.
IEBC is still grossly inefficient. The latest by-election in Kabete, where BVR machines flopped terribly, point to a electoral body that is dancing on the graves of would be dead voters by the time it declares winners (and losers) of the 2017 elections.
The question, however, is whether re-engineering (radical surgery) is possible on IEBC, and, if not possible, what next?
This brings me to the second issue: Isn’t IEBC reforming?
First, the IEBC has appointed a new Chief Executive, a Mr. Ezra Chiloba Simiyu. The appointment of Mr. Chiloba followed the indictment of former CEO Maj. (Rtd) James Oswago.
While the opposition has been ‘silent’ on the appointment of Mr. Chiloba, the Jubilee side already offered unsolicited praise and congratulations to the man’s feat.
Chiloba, a lawyer by profession, worked for UNDP and Policy House before emerging tops in the shortlist of four candidates who included then acting CEO of the commissionÂ Beatrice Nyabuto, Dickson Omondi of the National Democratic Institute and Erastus Ethekon of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Unlike Oswago who was appointed sometime in 2010 under intense suspicion from the Jubilee side (then PNU): Jeremiah Kioni and John Mututho openly accused him of planning to rig the ”2012” elections for ODM candidate Raila Odinga, Chiloba’s appointment has been less contested.
Silently, this is one development which has happened at IEBC. The import of it is that this man, Chiloba, will be the head of IEBC secretariat when the next elections happen in 2017. And the way things are; Isaack Hassan may be around for the next election. Hassan’s fate lies more with Jubilee than CORD (will be explained soon).
In March, IEBC appointed Marjan Hussein Marjan as Deputy CEO (support services). The commission also appointed James Muhati BuyekaneÂ as Director in charge of Â ICT. A Mr.Â Osman Ibrahim was appointed to finance.
All theseÂ appointments were amidst a legal suit the commission has instituted on former CEO Oswago and four other officials. The cases still drag in court.
All the indicted officials have now been replaced. Reforms?
Recently, CEO Chiloba laid down what IEBC intends to do ahead of 2017 elections. In this opinion piece, Chiloba touched on one of the points of conflicts in electoral contests in Kenya – voter register.
“A valid register of voters is the foundation of a credible and inclusive democracy. The register of voters distinguishes between those who can be allowed to vote from those who cannot. Proper planning for elections in a country like ours must be preceded by establishing whether or not we have a credible and comprehensive voter register” he wrote.
The new IEBC chief then revealed the other data that the electoral commission has been able to gather (indicative of a body doing something) in the post-2013 elections.
“Using the 2009 Census and figures of those who have newly acquired ID cards, we now know the proportion of non-registered voters as compared to the estimated voting population at the close of registration in 2012. There are two categories of counties with high proportions of non-registered voters. The first is the sparsely populated Arid and Semi-arid lands (ASAL), among them Kwale (43%), Kilifi (34%), Tana River (35%), Garissa (60%), Wajir (64%), Mandera (75%), Turkana (70%), Samburu (46%), West Pokot (55%), Trans Nzoia (39%), Baringo (34%), Narok (36%) and Kitui (31%). The second category comprises of counties with high population but low voter registration. They include Bungoma (36%), Busia (27%), Kakamega (27%), Nandi (27%), Makueni (27%), Meru (24%), Migori (33%), Kisii (23%), Nyamira (21%), Siaya (20%) and Homabay (26%). There will be about a total of 25 million eligible voters by 2017. With 14.3 million already registered, 10.7 million will be unregistered if no action is taken,” he revealed.
Who was to take action?
Last week I watched as parliament discussed the Budget and Appropriations Bill which lays out government allocations for the coming financial year starting end of this month. There was no difference between CORD and Jubilee legislators. In their fixation to punish any institution they don’t like, parliament sounded the death knell for credible polls in the next general elections.
The IEBC had requested over sh 10 billion to manage the 2017 general elections. Considering the statistics it provided above, this figure was (to me) very reasonable. In the 2012-2013 budget, IEBC was allocated sh 17. 5 billion.
During that period, the commission had requested sh 41.4 billion which parliament forced it to scale down to sh 31.5 billion. In the end, the commission went into the 2013 general elections with Ksh 21 billion with the government providing the 17.5 billion and the rest coming from donor sources -especially UNDP.
The current politics -egregious shenanigans – of funding IEBC eerily resemble the circus we were treated to in pre-2013 general elections. The commission was extremely underfunded, which forced it to cut down work on voter registration and education, one of its critical functions. This is what led, in part, to the disparities in voter registration ahead of the 2013 elections.
Then there was the electronic equipment to be procured (without which the election would be rigged) and time was running out. In the end, people ate chicken, the election was rigged and the supreme court ‘unanimously’ validated the mayhem.
History repeating itself, as a farce.
IEBC CEO unsuccessfully lobbied parliament to give the commission sh 10 billion. However, parliament cut the current sh 6.2 billion to sh 3.7 billion. This mean that the commission will not carry out the kind of mass new voter registration required to bridge the gaps as revealed in the article by the CEO.
Sadly, as these manoeuvres are going on, the opposition CORD is stuck in reforming IEBC using Okoa Kenya referendum bill. The jubilee, on the other hand, is not just sinking any prospect of a referendum before 2017, it is also starving the IEBC of funds to carry out new massive vote listing which will favour CORD. The Jubilee is using CORD’s ‘grudges’ with IEBC , emanating from commission’s complicity in 2013 election rigging, to kill two birds with one stone – weaken IEBC which automatically leads to low new voter registrations which would have given CORD a competitive edge ahead of the 2017 elections.
The earlier CORD realizes that it cannot reform IEBC to its liking, the better. Let me now turn to CORD’s belated ploy to boycott 2017 elections.
To boycott 2017 polls is to legitimize President Uhuru’s 2nd term win.
Boycott politics – a form of protest politics – does not work in Kenya. First, CORD is not the only ‘opposition’ grouping. In fact, CORD itself is an amorphous entity with no coherent ideology holding the three parties together, save for the convivialityÂ of the three ‘principals’.
Second, the Presidency is not the only seat to be harangued over in 2017. Third, and most importantly, boycotting the 2017 elections will give President Uhuru the only thing he lacked in his first term – legitimacy.
What would make the ruling coalition not sponsor a Mudavadi character to stand against Uhuru? Will CORD also boycott civic, parliamentary, senatorial and gubernatorial elections? Who in the current ‘vulture group’ in county assemblies -both governors and MCAs – senators and MPs will defer they love for power to ‘boycott’ an election where millions, to some; billions, Â is to be looted for 5 years after just one day of vote counting?
What political argument backs CORD’s resolve to boycott the 2017 elections? That it proposed far-reaching ‘good’ changes -in Okoa Kenya referendum draft bill- to the conduct of elections and it was not adopted and, so, it cannot participate? Would this not sound so oxymoronic to the critic on the other side who may point out the hypocrisy of it all – of trusting the same IEBC to conduct your referendum but not our election?
As a CORD supporter; but more so a citizen of the Republic of Kenya, Â I’d better carry my vote to the ballot than sit with it in the house. I don’t want to be theÂ party member who does not see beyond the party leader!
Blogger Dikembe blogs for MOVEMENT. Follow him on twitter @Disembe