As Kenya prepares for a momentous election on August 9, all eyes are trained on it.
Will it experience another dark moment in its history as it did after the December 2007 elections, or will it make Africa proud by holding a peaceful transitional election that oppugns skeptics as it did in December 2002?
If Kenya goes through a peaceful and smooth transition, it will have passed a tough political test. Compared with most African countries, Kenya has a populace, institutions, and laws that are strong enough to prevent a presidential candidate from stealing an election.
Yet, its biggest challenge is the viability and competence of its election management body (the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, IEBC) to deliver on its mandate.
The cost per voter in Kenya is one of the highest in the world. While the UK, the US, and Canada spend less than Ksh2,000 ($17) per voter, Kenya spends more than Ksh2500 ($21). It is mind-boggling how Kenya spends extravagantly in the false hope of investing in a chimera democracy. The ballot paper, which is used only once, has more security features than those in the country's currencies.
The IEBC’s habit of reinventing the wheel whenever it is managing an election has greatly contributed to the astronomical price tags that have made our elections to be among the costliest in the world.
With a massive budget, the IEBC usually attracts rapacious tenderpreneurs seeking opportunities to squeeze golden eggs out of the goose. The huge election budget (Ksh44.6 billion, or $376 million, for this election) mainly goes to fire-walling the vote from being "stolen" or tampered with.
Kenya will only be guaranteed a free, fair, transparent, credible election if it significantly minimises, or even eliminates, fraud in the process. This is not an impossible wish, as elections held in many parts of the world are generally fraud-free.
During the transition period, particularly between August 9 and September 6, the future of democracy in Kenya will heavily rely on the voter who must rationally exercise his or her civic duty; the media that must impartially and truthfully cover the news; the IEBC, which must be impartial and highly competent; the security agencies, who must professionally enforce law and order, protect the freedom to vote and turn aside unlawful orders; the politicians (particularly presidential candidates), who must not participate in chicanery; the judiciary that must correctly interpret the law; and the civil servants, who must continue faithfully to serve the public.
Kenya is at the crossroads: Will it consolidate its fragile democracy or engage a democratic reverse gear? Will it establish itself as a shining city on the hill or switch off the lights and retreat to the dark wilderness?
Since the means justifies the end, as Niccolò Machiavelli averred in 1513, our stability, governance, and development will be profoundly determined by the votes we cast on August 9.
Waranya Moni is a Kenyan working for an international organisation specialising in human development.