Seven People To Watch Ahead of August Election
As campaigns enter the home stretch, the focus is shifting to the officials and institutions charged with ensuring peace before during and after the August 8 General Election.
This comes at a time of shrill, disturbing rhetoric, anger over shambolic nominations and sporadic violence in a smouldering campaign.
These keepers of the peace include Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezra Chiloba; Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett; NIS director general Philip Kameru; Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga; NCIC chairman Francis Ole Kaparo; and director general of the Communication Authority of Kenya Francis Wangusi.
Their work is Herculean.
Electioneering is cut-throat and often ugly. The emergence of many independent — and unyielding independent-minded candidates — has heightened the tension by disrupting the electoral calculus.
There has been vandalism, routine, nasty oratory, untruths, hate speech, incitement and dirty tricks. Church pulpits are turned into political podiums. Funerals are opportunities to bash selfish rivals and laud one's own noble efforts to help wananchi.
So far no one has been arrested for hate speech. The IEBC has fined only three candidates for violence involving their supporters.
Monitors are supposed to be deployed to get audio video recordings of incendiary speeches and violence. Social media is being monitored. It's not clear at this point how effective it is.
The race between President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA's Raila Odinga is close and there's talk of a run-off.
At the IEBC, Chebukati and Chiloba are mandated to ensure free, fair and credible polls. Despite their protestations, credibility is already in doubt, according to critics.
All eyes in the region will be on East Africa’s flagship economy, given its fraught electoral history. Vote preparations have been far from smooth.
There are still questions about rigging, procedure in acquisition of electoral equipment and materials, the imperfect state of the voter's register, how polling stations will be manned and results announced. The opposition is trying to stop the printing of presidential ballots.
Yesterday Raila Odinga's ODM said again that the IEBC is tampering with the voter's register to benefit Jubilee.
There's violence and insecurity in parts of the Rift Valley and the Northeast. Issues of security, land, unga, corruption and education have raised tensions in some areas. Some fierce competition has turned tribal.
Memories of the 2007-08 post-election violence are still fresh. More than 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 displaced.
Yesterday the EU Election Observer Mission expressed concern over possible campaign and poll violence. Warnings of possible violence have also been issued by the police and the NCIC.
Many shambolic party nominations have made the IEBC's task difficult.
Chebukati and his IEBC are also expected to be bold enough in dealing with electoral offences, especially violence.
Unlike the ECK, the IEBC has powers to arrest and prosecute anyone involved violence and misconduct such as bribery, vote buying and use-abuse of state resources to campaign.
"We are ready for the elections, all things are rolling down as planned. We have a commission team ready to deal with all malpractices and I assure we are ready to deal with such cases," Chebukati said last week.
Another big player is soft-spoken but determined Police IG Boinett. He is expected to maintain high security countrywide, ensure property is safe, Kenyans can go about their daily business without interference. He must prevent violence, stop any that breaks out and arrest offenders.
Though the 2013 polls were largely peaceful, police earlier were for failing to act on intelligence about chaos in 2007-08.
They were also accused of using excessive force and there are reports about 500 people died from police fire.
NIS director general Kameru must keep security agencies informed and warn of possible trouble. The NIS is monitoring the rise in communal violence and the continued terror attacks along the Coast and northern borders.
After votes are cast and results announced, there are expected to be a slew of petitions. The spotlight will be on Chief Justice Maraga, president of the Supreme Court. He will president over hearings if petitions challenge the outcome of the presidential election.
The courts will also decide petitions by governors, MPs, senators, MCAs and woman representatives.
Hate-mongering and incitement were cited as causes of PEV in 2007 and their persistence today means the National Cohesion and Integration Commission will busy. It is mandated to monitor hate speech and incitement of communities and recommend prosecution.
Also monitoring telecommunications for hate and incitement will be Communications Authority boss Wangusi.
The authority can decide to shut down the internet.
In January this year, Wangusi said the CA has no plans to shutter the internet but warned the authority is watching for misuse that could inflame passions.
"We are using all possible means not to reach a level where the country can be in tension and force us maybe to take a drastic step," he told the media at CA headquarters.
The CA has proposed regulations that will impose Sh1 million fines or five years in jail, or both, on those sharing incendiary content via Facebook,Twitter, WhatsApp and other platforms.
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