Aynsley Genga is a JURIST Staff Correspondent in Kenya. She reports from Nairobi.
Today is a sad day for Kenya. Today Chebukati, chairman of the IEBC, this country’s electoral commission, basically made a mockery of the Kenyan electoral process. He has done it so shamelessly, so much so that many have been left wondering where he gets his audacity from.
Let me explain in detail the events of today. Kenyans as a whole had received word that we would finally find out who our president is at 3pm. Everyone was excited, especially due to how transparent the whole process had been thus far. People who had attempted to rig the vite had been caught, and any oddities happening at the Bomas of Kenya, the tallying center, were being reported so Kenyans were assured that whoever won this election would be the true winner.
As the saying goes, do not count your chicks before they hatch. Sure, there was tension and a lot of drama revolving around the entire process, but who would have thought that they would be even more drama on the day of the presidential announcement? The madness began at 3pm when Chebukati failed to make an appearance at the scheduled time and the announcement was further pushed to 4pm. Then 4pm was reached and there was still no sign of the IEBC chairman. Then word started to spread online that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioners were at a stalemate. The commissioners were not in full agreement on who to declare as the actual winner. Obviously when people saw this, panic began to spread. This piece of information came out just a few minutes after the Azimio party’s chief agent announced that he had not yet been given the final electoral presidential form to verify the tally and sign. You can therefore imagine the panic that Azimio supporters [of presidential candidate Raila Odinga] were experiencing at the time.
Kenyans were therefore at a standstill, everyone waiting to hear whether the rumor on the commissioners was true. Nothing was said by the press, but with the sudden change in mood of the UDA supporters and agents in Bomas (associated with Deputy President William Ruto) it was quite easy to tell who was going to be announced the winner. Thus the feeling of distress further intensified amongst Azimio supporters. It truly looked like Ruto was going to be announced as president despite the numbers not adding up. Looking at the tallies, it just was not making sense for many Kenyans how Ruto was going to be the final winner. Many had already started losing hope when, out of nowhere, the press announced that Juliana Cherera, the vice chairman of IEBC, together with three other commissioners were going to hold a separate press conference from Chebukati. I can say that people went wild on social media at such an unheard-of situation. Nobody could believe it was actually happening. It was during this separate press conference that Juliana Cherera effectively declared the elections rigged. She stated that despite the transparent process, the numbers going to be announced would be different from what was actually tallied. Juliana together with her three colleagues therefore wished to remove themselves from the announcement and declared they would not sign the final presidential electoral form.
This now brings me to the biggest contention of the day: how was Ruto still declared the winner of the presidential election despite all these events? How does Chebukati expect the majority of Kenyans to believe him when he commits such a treasonous act and, to make matters worse, he makes the declaration alone? He did not make the declaration in the presence of any other commissioners since the majority of his commission was against it. The remaining two he claimed were injured while being arrested. The question people are asking is: why were two of his commissioners arrested especially during such a period? Another question rising to the surface is: does that mean he was the only commissioner who signed that form? After all, 4 of the 7 total commissioners already rejected the results while the remaining 2 have been arrested, hence are most likely unable to sign the forms. So how was Chebukati able to announce the winner without the signatures of his fellow commissioners? Such an act is illegal – others are saying it is an act of treason that should not be encouraged. Moreover, another reason why so many people are in doubt stems from the fact that Chebukati was absent for most of the day. He only appeared at 5pm when he came to announce the winner alone. Nobody could locate him, which has led people to wonder where exactly he was that forced him to disappear for the long and delay the presidential results announcement.
So many illegalities have happened in the span of nearly three hours and you know what is worse? Everything that Chebukati has done was aired on live TV by channels all over the world thus everyone has seen what a mess Kenya’s elections are. Some might have even gotten tips on how to rig their own.
As it stands, only UDA supporters are celebrating Ruto’s win, with most ignoring how illegal this announcement was. Most are defending their “win” by saying that the commissioners who rejected the results were nominated by former president Uhuru Kenyatta therefore they are compromised. What most do not know when they spread such propaganda is that all the commissioners including Chebukati are nominated by the president. It is a system of checks and balances that our law has established. It is quite frustrating to see people defend something that is very illegal with nothing but baseless facts. They have decided to cover their eyes from the truth and stick with a leader who has already proven from the elections that he is not a man of integrity. Truly saddening but what can we do? Every man is entitled to their opinion and that is the true beauty of democracy. Democracy allows everyone to have a voice; the problem comes when people misuse it.
The rest of Kenyans comprising a majority of the tribes in the country are either angry, depressed or trying to move on and make the best of what has happened. I on the other hand, I am simply angry. My reason stems from the fact that one man has the nerve to actually make a mockery of our electoral rights in broad daylight. This is how the post-election violence in 2007 started. It is therefore mind-boggling for me that someone has the audacity to repeat such mistakes again. It is frustrating that there are people who think so little of other people’s lives. Too many people died in 2007 while others’ lives have been scarred or ruined of life. Despite everything that happened and how far we have come to pick ourselves up from those dark times, one man actually dares to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors. Kenyans have been praying night and day for peace and free and fair elections, and yet Chebukati thinks it is alright to deny them their rights, rights that our fellow countrymen fought and died for. To me, this election is making what we learn in law school seem completely useless. If someone can win through such means, what is even the point of our constitution? It is clearly a decoration for the government at this point.
People are angry and are demanding that Chebukati be arrested. Protests have already begun in various parts of the country, and what is probably keeping a majority of the people at bay is that the entire process, including its illegalities, have been caught on TV. That means there is hope for justice to prevail. The majority of Kenyans are holding on to that hope that this is not the end, and that their votes will mean still something. They are waiting to see if the matter will go to Supreme Court and if the Supreme Court will once again prove to the world that justice always prevails. I will further emphasize this point: MAY JUSTICE PREVAIL!!