August 9Th Elections: “Chebukati Must Go.” Calls Rent The Air..
With just about two months to the General Election, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is still muddling in the miasma of confusion and uncertainty as Kenyans wait with bated breath to exercise their democratic right.
Despite having sufficient time and funds to right the wrongs that were committed in the 2017 General Election, the electoral body has been procrastinating the problems for the last five years. And things have started getting out of hand.
On Monday, May 30, the commission chair Wafula Chebukati unashamedly told the country that IEBC’s data system had been breached and thousands of voters irregularly moved to different polling stations.
In essence, Chebukati was admitting that the commission he heads is not in control of the voters’ register and hackers can access all the crucial information they want at will.
It is worth noting that this was not the first time the commission was being hacked by outsiders, who appear to be determined to bungle the upcoming polls.
In July 2021, the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) confirmed that IEBC servers were hacked by an external IT specialist and personal information belonging to over 60, 000 voters was tampered with.
Repeating 2017 mistakes.
In March this year, Chebukati and the commission’s CEO Hassan Marjan admitted before the parliamentary committee on Justice and Legal Affairs that they do not know the number of polling stations that have no access to the 3G network.
Their shocking confession came nearly five years after the Supreme Court nullified the presidential election on account of the irregular transmission of results from some polling stations.
So glaring were the errors and blunders that former chief justice David Maraga said in his judgement that “any court in its right mind would quash those results”.
For instance, the commission could not explain why results from more than 11,000 polling stations could not be transmitted electronically.
Similarly, hundreds of thousands of ballot papers did not have security features as required by the law. Despite the court ordering Chebukati to fix the blunders before carrying out a repeat presidential election, little has been done since then.
Early this year, IEBC director of legal affairs Christine Owiye admitted that nothing had been done to fix the network issue in the 11, 000 polling stations, whose contested results formed the basis of nullification of the presidential poll.
Further, the commission has failed to audit the voters’ register as required by law. Despite awarding the tender to the KPMG audit firm to clean up the register, the process has never been completed.
According to the commission’s own schedule, this process was supposed to take place in 2021 but was dragged to this year for reasons only known to Chebukati and his team.
It is therefore not surprising to hear stories about hacking and irregular transfer of voters two months before the election date.
The commission is also on the spot over mismanaging a whopping KSh 9.5 billion.
According to the auditor general’s report, IEBC failed to produce financial documents to show how the billions allocated to it to streamline operations were spent.
Everything at the commission is shrouded in secrecy and suspicion. Chebukati has been dodging all questions touching on the commission’s preparedness and the integrity of the process with respect to what happened in 2017.
Apart from being ill-prepared, the impartiality of the commission in the upcoming polls is also in question.
On several occasions, the chairman has been linked to suspicious deals with Deputy President William Ruto, who is one of the presidential contestants.
One such scenario played out in October 2021 when Ruto’s UDA party protested the inclusion of Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and his ICT counterpart Joe Mucheru into the multi-agency team tasked with ensuring the commission runs a free, fair and peaceful election.
Chebukati shockingly agreed with UDA and asked the two ministers to resign from the multi-agency team.
When they refused to budge, Ruto and his team asked IEBC to pull out of the committee. Surprisingly, without even asking questions, Chebukati gave in to their demands for the second time and led the commission in withdrawing from the committee.
Secondly, all UDA and members of the Kenya Kwanza coalition aspirants with integrity issues and questionable academic credentials have been mysteriously cleared by the commission.
Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, whose academic papers have openly been disowned by all institutions he claims to have acquired them from, was among the first aspirants to be cleared.
Others with questionable academic credentials who have been irregularly cleared are Johnson Sakaja, Cleophas Malala and Aisha Jumwa.
On the other hand, the second in command has been frustrating the clearance of some aspirants. Murang’a’ governor Mwangi wa Iria has been barred from vying for president for no clear reason.
Despite mounting a serious campaign and flexing his financial muscles across the country, Chebukati refused to clear him and has been dodging him for the last three days.
According to Wa Iria, the chair is acting on the instructions of a powerful politician who is afraid his presidential bid could divide the Mt Kenya bloc and tilt his scales.
Election rigging plot.
Ruto recently strategically appointed Davis Chirchir, an IT guru and former commissioner at the electoral agency, as the chief of staff in his office. Chirchir has strong connections within the commission and knows its software and hardware like the back of his hand.
It is for this reason that Ruto has been going around the country chest-thumping about how he would floor his opponent by 8 am.
For Kenya to be assured of a free, fair and credible election in August, Chebukati must not be anywhere near the commission.
The writer is Tom Juma, a regular commentator on social, economic and political affairs.