June 25, 2017

The Daunting Task Ahead of IEBC as Kenya Gears Towards Elections

Photo: Daily Nation
 By Hezron Karanja | CA

The term “free and fair election” has become such a trite statement that its novelty has certainly worn off among many, yet sustaining a free and fair election is the epicenter of us maintaining a genuine and true civil society that renders a flourishing and harmonies co-existence.

Every nation around the world that purports to have a functioning democracy almost always has these four words somewhere in a statute or enactment which explicitly addresses their process of choosing public office holders. These words – however overused, cliché or worn out they might sound – are the true parents of democracy; the cradle of freedom.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has the uphill challenge of providing this cradle of freedom. The people of Kenya have had their share of disappointment and dismay over how previous elections have been conducted. The pursuit of democratic ideals has not been realized.

The IEBC has an enormous task in providing Kenyans that which no other organization preceding it has been able to bestow. This is, undisputedly & without a doubt, immense pressure to which most of us would cripple under with the sheer knowledge that over 45 million people are looking up to you as a barometer to their potential changing circumstances.

That makes picking the people running the IEBC a focal point in ensuring that Kenyans receive a piece of the deserved civil society and harmonious co-existence. Having and maintaining a peaceful & fruitful society is a non-negotiable prospect. Any constitutionally mandated organization like the IEBC must (not should) provide that upright society via a fair and transparent method of filling open public elective offices. No exceptions.

In the absence of a clear, just and equitable method of filling these offices, the citizens have not only a duty but a moral obligation to express disapproval. I am very aware that in any democratic process, there is always the victor and the runner-up. It’s the nature of the beast.

Therefore, it is my opinion that part of the umbrella of democracy is possessing the ability to accept results of a free and fair process. Because democracy doesn’t qualify as tenable only when your side or your views prevail. Because what is the purpose of striving for concrete democratic ideals (watered by people’s sweat, blood, and lives), if you can’t be in alignment and be satisfied with a fair and unbiased outcome?

I am also a true believer that part of that same democratic umbrella lies the hopes, wishes and desires of the runner-up in using the available legal redress and remedies in raising their grievances for a fair and just process however misplaced their theories, convictions or viewpoints maybe. This is because as much as we love and adore democracy as the best form of human political inventions in history, we cannot ignore the fact that democracy also harbors immensurable contradictions. These contradictions are mainly driven by the need to be as inclusive as possible and to satisfy as many people as possible in the pursuit of that civil and just society.

So, the democratic umbrella requiring you to obey a just and fair process, also provides you the opportunity to protest what you think is unfair and unjust, even when such claims could be viewed as bogus by some. For democracy is like love; it is there when you are happy and full of bliss, but also present when in loss and anguish. It’s just a matter of perspective.

“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”, so said Thomas Jefferson.

Peaceful protests and demonstrations are part and parcel of the democratic process because freedom and justice are a symphony of inconsistencies but not a waste of persistence and tenacity.

Actually, it is through persistence that people from all walks of democratic jurisdictions have been able to enjoy most of the rights and freedoms they enjoy today. Because in most cases, governments will only respond to an unrelenting, purposeful and tireless citizenry.

Governments have not been known to respond to passiveness. They love submission. It does not dish out rights and privileges out of sheer want, but out of assertive movements and an informed populace. For a government belongs to the people and not the other way around.

Unfortunately, some in the government still harbor the notion that a government is a myopic entity serving the very privileged few devoid of any kind of oversight and scrutiny.

Someone in the Massachusetts academia circles once told me that “democracy hangs on the edge of brilliance and insanity”. Funny, but very true. Because democracy is used to radical shifts with mystical connections, but strangely, it still remains tethered in a singular location. It all depends on the vantage point of your view of the spectrum.

It has always been my hope that with every subsequent government, that we will be able to move the needle to a perfected democratic society with every election cycle. I am also not naïve enough to believe that there is such a thing as a “perfect democracy” because, with every passing year, we discover something new about this process that was created centuries ago.

There’s an old adage that says, “men have always known women for thousands of years, but we are still trying to figure them out to this day”. I lend credence to that notion because I have lived quite a bit, but I have no clue who they are.

Incrementally, I hope that there will be a fundamental change of who we are, with an uncontrollable appetite and desire to be flexible in our viewpoints and to eliminate rigidness so we can be receptive to divergent views that will ultimately help us understand and perfect democracy.  But at this point, I wouldn’t want to be leading the IEBC organization, for what they have before them might require Moses himself.

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