After August, will the centre hold in Kenya?
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ROWDY youths rioting during the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008.

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As the region commemorated the 23rd anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi, the ruling Jubilee Party in Kenya was holding sham and violent party nominations marred with massive irregularities.

The party primaries were cancelled across the country, to be repeated the following week. And so, as youth in the region were being warned against being misled and used by politicians – as witnessed in Rwanda in the years leading to the genocide – the youth in Kenya were sounding war cries in support of their preferred candidates. During the three-month killings in Rwanda – from 7 April to 4 July 1994 – an estimated 1 million people met their deaths at the hands of the Interahamwe.

The youth actively participated in killing their peers as well as innocent women and children. It is estimated that an about 10,000 people were killed daily during that period. During the Jubilee Party primaries in Kenya, ballot boxes arrived well past noon in some polling stations, while others received inadequate or no voting materials at all.

The anger that this elicited was evident: Roads were barricaded and ballot papers burnt, while demonstrations erupted in some Jubilee strongholds. Social media was awash with hash tags condemning the mock elections as Kenyans vented their frustrations.

It was a crying shame that three months to the general elections, the ruling party could not engage its own members in free, fair, transparent and credible party primaries.

Not that the main opposition coalition has fared any better in its own primaries; however, the ruling party holds particular significance in that the confidence of Kenyans in its ability to guide the country to a credible election has been severely eroded.

It was evident that the memories of the 2007/2008 post-election violence that rocked Kenya after the then disputed presidential election have long been forgotten. The loss of lives, destruction of property, mass evictions, rape and displacement that brought the economy of Kenya to its knees are nowhere in the minds of Kenyans.

Indeed, Kenya could be headed for violent times if existing systems are not streamlined to ensure credible and transparent elections in August. With the country already polarized, only a free and transparent exercise can prevent conflict. Hopefully, all aspirants will respect the will of the people – the hallmark of a fair and free exercise of the people’s sovereign power.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission(IEBC), the body mandated with conducting elections in Kenya, must in this regard punish every form of electoral malpractice, ballot stuffing, vote buying and other violations of electoral laws.

Ballot rigging seems to be particularly pervasive. Ballot box stuffing by party agents, fabrication and falsification of vote counts, and parallel announcement of election results by opposing parties should similarly not be condoned. The ruling party must desist from using state agents and resources to gain an unfair advantage over opponents.

The Kenyan government must deal with charges that it plans to defraud the opposition in the event the latter wins the presidential contest, while certifying the results as free and fair. In fact, all those previously implicated in electoral fraud, especially during the ongoing nominations, ought not to be allowed to vie for elective positions.

This is because instilling discipline among aspirants is key to ensuring democratic elections are conducted. The opposition parties in Kenya have time and again raised the red flag over the registration of ineligible voters and purging of the electoral register of opposition party supporters.

This is a genuine concern and should be addressed with urgency. The IEBC must ensure its register is clean and open to inspection, and that all eligible voters are registered. Cases of stealing of ballot boxes, expelling of party agents from polling stations, inflating of votes, and other failings must be addressed.

In the past, the opposition has been denied equal access to state-owned media, which have been known to peddle lies in favour of the ruling clique. Equally, all forms of psychological warfare and emotional blackmail must be eliminated during the voting process. In our generation, electoral fraud can easily undermine the political stability of any country, as witnessed across the EAC partner states and elsewhere during electioneering periods.

Electoral malpractices undermine democracy and the rights of citizens, and should not be tolerated. For Kenya, there is no option to conducting fair, transparent and credible elections. The government must assure Kenyans of the electoral body’s preparedness to conduct credible elections.

A repeat of what was observed last week during the ruling party primaries would almost certainly lead to violence and war. By all means, Kenyans must live in peace even after August.

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