We must not appoint charlatans to IEBC

Wednesday, July 10th, 2024 06:00 | By
President William Ruto, DP Rigathi Gachagua and former PM Raila Odinga at KICC on Tuesday, July 9, 2024.
President William Ruto, DP Rigathi Gachagua and former PM Raila Odinga at KICC on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. PHOTO/@rigathi/X

Kenya’s darkest moments have been associated with contested elections. The country was wracked by violence after the 2007 presidential election that claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced over 350,000 others from their homes.

Investigations into the crimes committed during the violence led to the charging of senior leaders and civil servants before an international tribunal.

A commission that probed the causes of the violence blamed it partly on lack of confidence in the independence of the national elections body and the Judiciary.

Those who disputed the presidential election results refused to seek arbitration in courts, saying that the Judiciary could not be an impartial arbiter in the conflict. They argued that judges appointed by the Executive were beholden to it and therefore, could not rebuke it.

A system existed then that allowed a Judicial Service Commission dominated by members appointed by the Executive to appoint judges.

There were also doubts about the impartiality of the electoral commission. A high number of commissioners who oversaw the election were partisan, with most appointed by one of the competitors.

Divisions in the electoral agency that conducted the last General Election created doubts about the conduct of the presidential polls and pushed the country to the edge.

This history is critical at a time Kenya has set out the process of constituting a new polls body. President William Ruto yesterday signed the IEBC (Amendment) Bill into law. It has been consistently argued that given the sensitive and huge mandate assigned to the IEBC, its conduct should be beyond reproach. That is why those appointed to the commission must be competent men and women of integrity and tested patriots whose past actions bend towards the national good and defence of constitutionalism.

The hiring must not be characterised by the usual horse-trading that has always ended up staffing the commission with charlatans, barely literate “scholars” and out-of-depth lawyers. We think that the next recruitment presents an opportunity to cure these self-inflicted historical mistakes.

We strongly believe that the choice of the selection panel that will interview the candidates is the place to start. Who determines the institutions that select individuals to the panel? The answer is the usual suspects who have consistently yielded to tribal appetites and incompetence at the expense of merit and dedication. This costly trend must end.

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