In a period of less than one Month, when Parliament is still on recess, four special sittings were gazetted- and conducted in both the two houses. This, accompanied by a one week public participation. Bone of contention, The Election Law (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill, 2015 -coming just seven months before the general elections.
With the main issue revolving around three processes of voter registration, voter identification during elections and vote transmission – the average Kenyan has ended up being ping-ponged between two vocabularies – MANUAL and ELECTRONIC. And a third one, COMPLIMENTARY.
Looking at this discourse through an objective prism, it is my submission that both Jubilee’s concerns, and the oppositions concerns, are legitimate. But it is only the lack of TRUST between them, and among other players, that’s causing the standoff. While Jubilee submits that a system can fail thus the need to compliment it, opposition views the ambiguity of the word compliment as a direct reference to manual identification of voters and manual transmission of votes -having learned from the 2013 elections, when the systems, instead of identifying voters, only served as election decorations at polling stations, with no explanation whatsoever -even though taxpayers money was heavily invested in them. The fact that opposition has also viewed the IEBC as an appendage of Jubilee, doesn’t make matters any simpler. This is why the President ought not to append his signature to this controversy, instead, refer it back to negotiations to iron out concerns and build the needed TRUST going into the elections.
However, as things stand today, the opposition this week will be mobilizing her troops at Bomas of Kenya to craft their way forward. Among the options at their disposal are 1) mobilizing their tyranny of brains (as crafted by opposition) to nullify the amendments in Court, 2) Lobby for the President to refer the amendments back to negotiations, 3) Call for mass demonstrations –among others. At this point in time, the option of mass demonstration MIGHT fail to work in favor of opposition and work in favor of Jubilee. And this is why?
- It is a period of mass voter registration.
Even though voter registration is an ongoing process, Politicians and Political parties can optimize this period to excite their followers by rallying those who would have otherwise not register into registering. Scheduled for mid January to mid February, if opposition decides to be on the streets at this time, they might lose on the very last chance before the set election dates to mobilize their supporters to register. And this will clearly work to the advantage of Jubilee.
- De-legitimize opposition’s quest for credible elections.
This you can take to the bank. That in case of demonstrations, Jubilee will use all available opportunity to sell the notion that Opposition has never been interested in elections -whether credible or not. And that their only interest is chaos. Jubilee has cited instances of alleged interference of elections from both within and without. Although they are yet to present a strong case to substantiate the same.
- Serve as an avenue for ethnic mobilization.
When the National Assembly passed this amendment, the opposition, led by co-principle Kalonzo Musyoka scheduled 4th January 2017 as the date for embarking back to street demonstration. Although the call was to be called off again, it is worth remembering that GEMA also gave terms of engagement. That they would also rally their troops to defend their businesses. This is with respect to Nairobi. But if it was purely a function of businesses, wouldn’t it therefore be prudent to mobilize the entire Business Community that includes the Luhya and the Kamba business men? If let’s say the demonstrations happened, and GEMA mobilized her people to protect businesses, would it have therefore devolved into “them against us” kind of arrangement? The kind of arrangement that would eventually throw reason out of the window?
It is therefore worth noting that at this time, calls for demonstrations have very high probabilities of introducing ethnic mobilizations, and everyone can easily forget what’s at stake, filled with emotions and continue making mistakes at the ballot.
Ethnic mobilization as a result of demonstrations will make Jubilee’s campaign in their own strongholds very easy. As easy as Sunday morning. This is because they will simply get narratives for blaming the opposition on all the misfortunes during their term.
Whether in August 2017 Kenya will be heading for a general election, or simply just another ethnic census exercise, the opposition should be aware of the free points that they risk throwing Jubilee’s way when they call for street demonstrations at this time.
However, having said this, the opposition is at liberty and within the constitution mandate to invoke article 37 of the Constitution of Kenya in pursuit of a middle ground in this standoff.
But more fundamentally, for the sake of the Nation Kenya, the President of this Republic ought to rise to the occasion and refer this bill back to negotiation. The President has no option but to be at the forefront of building TRUST in this election year.