We’re watching you, IEBC: We matter; our votes, too

Saturday September 9 2017

A long queue of voters who turned up at Ruthimitu Secondary School polling station in Dagoretti South, Nairobi on August 8, 2017. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG

A long queue of voters who turned up at Ruthimitu Secondary School polling station in Dagoretti South, Nairobi on August 8, 2017. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG 

By MUTHONI WANYEKI
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It is clear from his public statements, responses to political parties and meetings with stakeholders that the chair of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has taken the indictment by the Supreme Court seriously.

It is equally clear, however, that he’s facing steep resistance in his determination to address the Supreme Court’s indictment.

Alarmingly, this resistance is in full view of the public — at a time when we (reasonably) expect a united show of force to re-instil our confidence in the IEBC.

The IEBC, as a whole, owes the public answers on these findings. More than answers, responses that would lead us to believe that the court-ordered presidential election will have both credibility and integrity. The vote is about us — the public. It is about the expression of our individual and thus collective will.

The unconstitutionalities, illegalities and irregularities pointed out by the Supreme Court are not nuisance side-issues. They affected the IEBC’s ability to determine our individual and collective will.

It may be that the Jubilant candidate won by the margin that he supposedly did. But we don’t know that for sure. It may be that the opposition candidate won instead.

The only way to know that for sure is if we can follow, in ways we can independently verify the process from the dropping of our ballots into the bin, through counting and tallying, through transmission of results right to the end.

The argument that the Supreme Court upended the supposed will of the people is utter nonsense. What the Supreme Court did was say the will of the people must be respected. And, to respect it, we need a credible process of counting, tallying, transmission and declaration of results. So that, regardless of the outcome, we can all step back and celebrate (or grieve). Then (and only then) move on.

The increasingly personalised and vitriolic attacks on the Supreme Court must be seen, thus, for what they are. An attempt to flip the script. An attempt to say that the public — on either side of the political fence — don’t matter.

But we do matter. This is — most of all — about us and our right to vote. Which right means more than standing in line, marking the spot and dropping the spot into the bin. It means respecting — to the fullest extent possible — our effort to stand in line, mark the spot and drop the spot in the bin.

Back to the IEBC. The list of issues to be dealt with is clear. Those issues cannot be dealt with in the absence of contriteness and an understanding of the weight of the public (not political) interest in this. The political pressure is relentless. All public institutions (and individuals therein) are prone to capture, co-option and coercion.

We know this. The focus must thus be less — from us, the public — on who those individuals are. And more on the issues and how they’re being addressed.

It’s our vote. It’s the expression of our will. The greatest contribution we can all make at this time is to put the individuals in charge of this particular public institution on notice. But not letting go of the issues. By indicating we’re watching. And that we expect those issues to be addressed.

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is the Africa Director for the Open Society Foundations network based in London, the UK. This column is written in her personal capacity.