Troubleshooting the Next Kenya General Election

Words: Andrew Franklin, Managing Director, BBA JD

Whether held 8 August 2017, some time in December 2017 or even as late March 2018 Kenya’s next General Elections must be free, fair and genuinely credible; anything less would plunge the country back into the dark days of Post Election Violence (PEV) that followed the botched 2007 elections. Since the beginning of January 2016 all attention has been focused on the IEBC; election reforms have been distilled into merely changing the line up of IEBC Commissioners − and its Chairman − which nearly all stakeholders have agreed is a prerequisite for the holding of peaceful elections on 8 August 2017.

Attention is not being paid to the myriad GOK entities completely outside IEBC control or even influence whose conduct or failures to perform will endanger the holding of credible elections and greatly increase the likelihood of generalized violence and social disorder particularly in the immediate aftermath of election day.

I believe it is necessary to “trouble shoot” all of the risks posed by failures on the part of state actors, immediately publicize the specific details of identified problems and also recommend practical common sense solutions and quick fixes. This should be a continuous exercise and needs to start as soon as possible.
The following examples of threats and risk factors are provided to illustrate the scope of our problems:

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs fails to fund facilities overseas to accommodate legitimate registered Diaspora voters.
  • The National Police Service (NPS) is unable to maintain law and order before, during and after the national elections.
  • The Ministry of Interior is unable to issue National ID Cards to all eligible Kenya Citizens.
  • The Judicial Service Commission, regardless of reasons, fails to ensure that a credible fully staffed Supreme Court is in place to adjudicate any disputes arising from the Presidential Contest.
  •  Treasury fails to budget − in advance − for the cost of a run off in the Presidential Contest.

Although not an exhaustive list of all potential problems that could derail peaceful and credible elections there is a common denominator to these and other easily determined issues: another state actor can be blamed by the IEBC for the consequences of foreseeable failures that need not have occurred.

From December 2011 onwards I very publicly asserted that Kenya would not hold its lawfully mandated elections at any time in 2012; the election date was eventually fixed for 4 March 2013. Many of the factors I identified from late 2011 are still with us and there are now new threats posed by state actors’ failures.

The sooner we examine the world beyond the IEBC the sooner we can cost effectively fix problems or mitigate their negative consequences.

We may soon realize that holding elections on 8 August 2017 is simply not possible under all of the circumstances besetting the nation. The early recognition of this reality on the part of all stakeholders and adjusting the election schedule accordingly is a basic requirement of leadership.

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  • Jelani Juma

    I agree completely with you. Reform of the IEBC is not the only prerequisite for us holding peaceful, free and fair elections when the time comes. The Ministry of Interior is especially key., if they don’t perform their mandate well, many Kenyans will be disenfranchised. Their action (or inaction) could be an indirect form of rigging. The time to act is now.