IEBC managed polls well despite ballot mix-ups, kit hitches

Sunday August 14 2022
Kenyans vote.

A group of voters at a polling station in Nairobi on August 9, 2022 during Kenya's general election. PHOTO | LUIS TATO | AFP


Last Tuesday, Kenyans went to polls and I cast my ballot within 45 minutes. This was an improvement from 2017, when it took me more than two hours to vote.

In the 2013 election, the exercise was managed chaos. So, if my experience is anything to go by, in terms of logistics and planning, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has improved.

However, even on this score, glaring shortfalls, inadequacies and inefficiencies remain. For instance, there were too many failures of the Kiems (Kenya Integrated Elections Management System) kit in several parts of the country. In the lead up to the elections, the IEBC had shown — despite words of caution from some quarters — inflexible faith in the durability of the kit. Then there was the mix-up of ballot papers that caused the electoral body to postpone elections for members of parliament and governors in some constituencies and counties.

Our elections also need to improve on the question of gender representation. An overwhelming majority of people contending for the various seats are men.

Women who seek elective posts are disadvantaged by lack of finances and deeply ingrained patriarchy that still sees women as belonging in the home.

Women who are not married or are divorced are made to feel ashamed of their status. In the lead up to this election, a politician insinuated that Martha Karua, running mate of Raila Odinga, and Charity Ngilu, outgoing Governor of Kitui, were not family-oriented due to their marital status (Ngilu is widowed).


The sexualisation of women politicians once caused Wangari Maathai to challenge her male political opponents to focus on the part of her anatomy “starting from the neck upwards.”

The other missing part in our elections is the connection between our material conditions and the kind of leadership we elect.

A candidate’s history, record in office, their character and their ideas should all form the criteria for their evaluation as leaders. In our situation, the fact that someone has been convicted in a court of law, or is facing serious criminal charges, or whether they at one time committed atrocities against the people, etc., seem not to matter. We are motivated by tribalism and all manner of fraudulent gimmicks.

At one time, a politician became so popular through his antics, which included incitement to violence, that he had a choice of elective positions. He became an MP in two different constituencies, and later Governor of Kiambu County. Yet he had never been associated with a single useful idea or legislation.

Our media also need to improve on critically assessing candidates and their proposals. For months, the media kept repeating, without challenge, outrageous falsehoods peddled by a candidate who claimed that selling marijuana and hyena testicles could help the country repay its debt in a year. By not offering counter arguments, the media legitimised his wacky views.

Africa’s development crisis is fundamentally a crisis of leadership. We will remain stagnant until we resolve that fundamental crisis.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator