IEBC begins to feel pressure from aspirants

Saturday May 21 2022
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati.

Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati. PHOTO | FILE


Kenya’s electoral commission has come under renewed pressure from presidential campaigns alleging bias or inaction against external interference.

Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party on Tuesday fired its latest protest letter to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), complaining about the country’s ICT minister Joe Mucheru openly campaigning for his rival, Raila Odinga.

Mr Mucheru is not the only Cabinet minister who has attended Mr Odinga’s campaign events ahead of an election in which President Uhuru Kenyatta has endorsed the opposition leader to succeed him.

But Dr Ruto’s party has singled out the ICT minister due to his perceived involvement in the preparation of election-related IT systems.

In actual act, it is the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), a quasi-autonomous agency, which has a limited role in the election preparations by providing internet connectivity at polling stations to enable electronic transmission of results.

The IEBC uses biometric kits for voter registration and identification and operates a parallel results transmission system, with results of the presidential election sent to the national vote tallying centre from the polling stations both manually and as electronic images.


Where there are any discrepancies, it is the results declared by its officials at the polling stations, filled in hard copy forms and witnessed by campaign agents that count.

The Kenyan electoral commission is relatively independent compared with its peers in the region, which are largely controlled by their respective governments.

After a particularly dark chapter of the electoral management history in 2007, when a presidential election dispute drove the country to the brink of a civil war, the commission has undergone reforms in subsequent elections to try to regain public confidence.

Its top officials are competitively selected and undergo parliamentary vetting during hearings aired live on national television.

It has also increasingly adopted technology to ensure the integrity of the elections.

But suspicions over technology have persisted in the wake of procurement scandals, biometric kit failures and Supreme Court judges questioning the credibility of the electronically transmitted results in their landmark decision nullified the 2017 presidential election.

The judges cited the fact that the official results announced by the IEBC were based on the electronic tally before the manual results were tallied among the irregularities and illegalities that made them overturn the outcome of the election.

In the run-up to this year’s election, the IEBC also has deep-seated personal grudges from the 2017 debacle to deal with.

Mr Odinga, who was challenging President Kenyatta’s victory at the Supreme Court a second time, has not concealed his loathing for the commission’s chairman, Wafula Chebukati.