By George Biruri
Power in Africa is more sweeter than in other regions because of the holders’ impunity, unaccountability, and unfettered access to public resources. We have the record of having the most extended term holders of Presidents’ offices.
The Electoral bodies in Africa are a tool that is used to access power and retain it for a long time. Therefore the EB usually are captured and manipulated by the executive for them to play ball.
Recently, in several tv and radio interviews, the Ugandan opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye, said that when it became apparent that Museveni would lose, the Museveni regime disbanded the Electoral Commission before the announcement of results and officials of NRM took over and announced Museveni as the winner!
In Tanzania, the Electoral Body is like a department of the CCM, the ruling party! Their decision is final and cannot be challenged in court.
In Kenya, we have had a history of capture and manipulation of the Electoral Body. At independence, the Electoral Body comprised of selected Senate members and the house of representatives. That was changed to bring in Electoral Commission. The Commission was then removed and replaced with the office of Director of Elections in the Office of the Attorney General.
In 1998, Moi described Que voting (Mulolongo) as the open African democracy that eventually turned out to be open rigging of elections. The candidates with the shortest lines were declared winners because the powers in the state preferred them. The Director of Elections used the then Provincial Administrators as returning officers.
The office of the Director of Elections was abolished and replaced with the Electoral Commission. However, the Chairman and all the Commissioners were appointed directly by the President, who was also an interested party in the elections!
In 1997, after the IPPG the Commission was expanded to bring in appointees from the opposition.
During the election of 2007, the counting and the tabulation of results was marred by several irregularities. In 2007, after the expiry of the term of some commissioners, President Kibaki unilaterally appointed some replacements. The Chair of the Commission then, Samuel Kivuitu complained that it seemed that the new commissioners were playing the bidding of some outside party because they were not listening to him. Kivuitu, while at the National Tallying Center at KICC, publicly complained that the results of constituencies that were near Nairobi and had good transport and communication network had inordinately delayed transmitting the results. He further said that he could not reach the constituency returning officers because they had switched off their phones! When finally, he openly said that he could not tell who had won the Presidency and the inflated Tharaka Nithi votes were declared, all hell broke loose.
The Commission was disbanded and replaced with two transitional interim bodies; IIEC and IIBRC.
After the promulgation of the Constitution, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was established. Claims of rigging and Commission of illegalities and irregularities have always dogged the Commission. The Supreme Court in 2017 clearly indicted the IEBC.
The recent moves by the UDA administration indicate clearly that they want to capture and control the IEBC. Their tripartite allies are set to leave in January, and the remaining four can not be trusted because they exposed Chebukati abracadabra during the counting. They had to initiate their removal through sponsored petitions. In preparation, they have sought to amend the composition of the selection committee so that it can be populated by appointees who pay allegiance to UDA. I am sure that the UDA controlled Parliament -will unreasonably approve the petitions. Then, Ruto will pick UDA sympathetic judges ( preferably those who had a bone to pick with Uhuru) in the tribunal to seal the fate of the four commissioners.
The reasons why the current regime wants to control the IEBC are:
1. They want to control the electoral management, the electoral process and the future elections so that they can remain in power for long.
2. They want to control the boundaries reviews which is set to happen in 2024, so that they can continue with the skewed representation in Parliament.
3. They want a body that can frustrate any constitutional amendments through popular initiative attempt by the opposition or other stakeholders.
A controlled, manipulated, and executive-linked IEBC will be a disaster. Those pushing for it will one day be subject to their irregularities, and they will regret why they did it.