Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Of bullies and intellectual charlatans

Ten years ago he hounded Samuel Kivuitu out of office. Last year he hounded Isaack Hassan out of office. Today this same man is working hard to ensure Ezra Chiloba leaves office. The only crime all these men committed is to be at the helm of an electoral commission that did not announce him President of Kenya. -- Raila a bully who insults, wounds -- Ngunjiri Wambugu
Ten years ago, in December, the Electoral Commission of Kenya oversaw a general election that ended in some of the greatest violence related to an election since Independence. A commission of inquiry headed by a respected South African jurist concluded that while it would never be proven who had actually won the presidential election, the electoral commission was to blame for the manner in which the election was managed. It will remain highly contested territory whether or not "mass action" calls by the Opposition led to the violence, but the spark that lit the tinder was laid by the Commission and its chairman, the late Samuel Kivuitu.

One of the recommendations of the Kriegler Commission that investigated the management of the 2007 general election was that the Kivuitu commission had to go home. Raila Odinga was not the only one who indicted the Kivuitu commission; Johann Kriegler and the members of his commission of inquiry did so too, as did the vast majority of Kenyans who had suffered the consequences of the decisions of the election commission and its chairman.

As for Mr Hassan and his commission, the widespread failure of the electronic voter identification kits during the 2013 general election could not go unchallenged especially as it formed a major plank of Mr Odinga's rejection of Uhuru Kenyatta's election. The Supreme Court disagreed with Mr Odinga -- mostly because it refused to entertain the proof he alleged to have compiled in a 900-page affidavit. Mr Odinga accepted the verdict of the Supreme Court but vowed to lead the charge in reforming the commission and the law relating to elections. Mr Odinga succeeded. The commission was reconstituted and the law amended. This was done with the active collaboration of the ruling coalition, though some of its members attempted to sabotage the reforms in January 2017.

Mr Odinga's current animus against Mr Chiloba is not founded on the well-worn canard that Mr Chiloba's chairman, Wafula Chebukati, "refused" to announce Mr Odinga as the President of Kenya. Mr Odinga alleged that the 2017 general election, especially in the presidential election, was conducted in the midst of irregularities and illegalities that rendered the outcome of the election as lacking in credibility, integrity, transparency or accountability. The Supreme Court, this time around, agreed with Mr Odinga and invalidated the presidential election. (Of the over 340 election petitions filed so far, the Supreme Court decision is set to become a well from which the waters of justice may never be exhausted.)

Mr Odinga, for better or for worse, has become the face of constitutional and political reforms in Kenya. Ever since his spectacular falling out with Mwai Kibaki in 2003, after Mr Odinga had led the charge in ensuring Mr Kibaki's electoral victory, Mr Odinga has been at the forefront of holding the national government, its officials and agents accountable for their acts of omission and commission. He has made many mistakes in his actions but he has inexorably moved the nation towards greater openness and transparency regarding Government's operations. Some of his actions have required a certain measure of public pressure -- of public officials and institutions -- and this was to be expected. Entrenched retrogressive elements will not budge simply because we say "pretty please". They must be shown shows of force. Great pressure must be brought to bear on them in order for them to see the virtues of change. This has been the story of all political and constitutional change in Kenya since the days of Saba Saba, something Mr Wambugu, in a fit of intellectual dishonesty, refuses to acknowledge.

A distinction, though, must be made about Mr Odinga's tactics and bullying. Mr Odinga is undoubtedly as selfish as we all are. He seeks ultimate political power like the thousands of politicians in Kenya. But despite this basic truth, it is also true that Mr Odinga has been responsible for shining a light on some very discomfitting aspects of the way Government operates, including how elections are managed. Kenyans are the better for it too. Perhaps Mr Odinga enjoys emotional satisfaction in removing senior public officers from office but when they have been responsible, by acts of omission or commission, in the deaths of thousands, the destruction of billions of shillings worth of private and public property, or the loss of billions of taxpayer funds, this is undoubtedly a good thing for the peoples of Kenya. Peace and stability cannot be used to cover up the misdeeds of public officers. That is not the constitutional bargain we made for ourselves with constitutional provisions such as those found in Article 10 or Chapter Six. If it takes a "bully" to reveal public officials as being devoid of integrity and unworthy to hold public office, then so be it.

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