I agree with the NASA coalition leadership that the 2017 general election was a sham.
In the run-up to the 2017 elections, a friend advised me against contesting as the governor of Isiolo County. I was surprised at his suggestion. When I asked him why, he replied, “Are you able to buy the returning officer and the agents of your opponents?” I was kind of taken aback. In this time and age, elections should reflect the will of the people.
Of course, I disregarded my friend’s advice and proceeded with my quest. I was fully aware of the demands from our electorate, including being paid to attend campaign meetings and other exorbitant but sometimes unavoidable costs that run into millions of shillings.
On the campaign trail I did what every ordinary politician does; go and see people, talk to them about my plans, manifesto and how I planned to improve their lives.
Most often these messages were received positively. Later I realised the average Kenyan voter does not really listen to the messages leaders bring them. The most attractive thing to a voter in a campaign meeting is the money that people receive. In fact, during the campaign period, there are people who shut down their business only to wait for politicians. Lots of money is spent just for people to come out to listen to a politician.
The reality of my friend’s advice hit me when I saw a presiding officer at a polling station assisting an elderly and unlettered voter.
The agents were all staring away as the presiding officer kept on assisting the unlettered voters.
To my utter shock, I realised more than 70 per cent of the voters in the rural areas are assisted voters, meaning they don’t possess even the most basic form of education. Most elderly voters voted for a candidate they did not even know.
This aspect really shocked me and confirmed the fears that our electoral process is a sham.The saddest part though is the counting of ballot papers. My impromptu visit to a number of polling stations confirmed my fears.
As the former Russian dictator Joseph Stalin once said, “It is not enough that the people know there was an election.
The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” The methods I saw in several polling stations suggested an agent cannot really confirm with certainty that the process is fair and transparent.
Some of the polling stations do not have proper lighting system so agents sometimes cannot verify the results. The whole process looks very unfair. The presidential tally was the most inaccurate.
The NASA coalition has been lamenting about votes being stolen. Scores of people have so far been killed by the security forces.
The worst part in my observation is the buying of voters on the polling queue. Without blinking, candidates were openly giving money to voters in the presence of the police officers.
The electoral process as it is now cannot reflect the wishes of the people.
The best solution would be to use mobile phone applications for people to vote. Since most adults in Kenya today can vote, IEBC should invest in an APP that can be used to elect the leaders we want.
If an illiterate voter needs to be assisted, then it is better if assisted by relatives they trust rather than a stranger.
The elections of 2017, despite the orderly and peaceful manner in which they were conducted, did not qualify for the “free and fair” description.
IEBC needs to initiate a new set of reforms to inspire confidence and ensure a candidate feels comfortable with the process.
As things stand now, it looks like elections in Kenya are determined way in advance and there is no need in taking part in an election in the first place.
By Mohamed Gulleid- Courtesy of The Standard newspaper