Polls agency holds the key to peace or chaos in the country

Maina Kiai by Maina Kiai
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For close to five years now, this column has persistently pleaded, cautioned, cajoled, criticised and attacked the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). This is because the IEBC — together with the security apparatus and the Executive — are the most likely institutions to lead us into conflict, crisis and chaos.

Why? Because elections in Kenya are not just about the policy direction the country will take for the next five years.

No, with our winner-take-all system, now slightly modified by devolution, our elections are about inclusion, identity, and about patronage and possibilities for enrichment and corruption. 

Today, they are about the impossibility of peacefully changing leadership, something that is intrinsic to the development of nationhood and belonging where politics is ethnically engineered. 

Crucially, elections in Kenya are also about encouraging creeping dictatorship or embracing freedom and democracy.


If those who feel excluded from power believe that elections can never, and will never, be fair enough for them to get the leadership they want, and if elections remain shrouded in opacity and confusion, this will only raise the stakes for issues like secession, people power or other forms of resistance that can hurt this country seriously.

Already, the blood of the 38 people killed in elections related violence so far, if we include Chris Msando, is on the hands of the IEBC, whether they pulled the trigger personally or not. It was IEBC’s actions and omissions, and its decision to sacrifice its independence to achieve a particular result that led to these deaths.

And the cost to the economy is rising fast, not just from what the IEBC is consuming but from the anxiety that the tensions bring onto it. Some think that a quick election, even if disputed, can resolve some of the economic woes, as it has seemingly done in the past, but we may have run out of our good luck charms on this.

What is most infuriating about all this is that it is actually easier to run a transparent and fair election than to run one that is opaque and with predetermined results. 


And it is this opaqueness that is the source of confusion at the IEBC and the trigger to the chaos we are witnessing and which will certainly increase.

Transparency demands that IEBC should have opened the servers as soon as we started voting, and as the counting and tallying was going on. But it has not done so, a month after being ordered to open its servers by the Supreme Court, meaning that it is a continuing contempt of court.

Authoritative sources say that the IEBC Commissioner in charge of IT has adamantly refused to open the servers, even contradicting the Chairman who at some point seemed amenable to more transparency.

There can only be one reason for this obstinacy and willingness to subvert a court order: That what will be discovered will show up the IEBC for what it truly did from August 7 to August 11 when the declaration was made.


The thing about computers and the internet is that evil doers always leave traces of their work even if they delete it, and it seems that this must never be known. Could it be that this will shatter the myth and destroy the fake news that Uhuru Kenyatta received the votes he claims he did?

And let’s be clear too. After the Supreme Court ordered scrutiny of the IT and the Forms 34 A and B, only the most dishonest and partisan can cling on the idea that we know who won the election. 

We simply don’t, with the information before us, but maybe, just maybe some crack forensic IT specialists could reconstruct the results as sent it and we finally lay that ghost to rest.

For now, IEBC has declared that it will hold elections on October 26, no matter what, echoing Jubilee’s position, which it always does. IEBC has never contradicted Jubilee, which makes its independence questionable. It may well hold something that they will want to call elections, but the crisis will not go away. Importantly, Mr Kenyatta will not get the legitimacy he craves, and his may well never live this down.

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