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Opinion & Analysis

Let Kenyans deliver cohesion after Aug 8

People in a public rally. file photo | nmg
People in a public rally. file photo | nmg 

The general elections are almost here with us. This electoral cycle has been extremely eventful. We have changed laws and personnel in charge of the polls all with a view to improving the processes.

With only a week to the polls, save for last-minute issues, all that is required to ensure that the elections are free, fair and peaceful. The key question is, are they?

The electoral management body is central to the credibility of the polls. They are constitutionally mandated to put in place administrative and logistical arrangements necessary to run an election.

This ranges from hiring temporary staff, procurement, developing regulations, preparing a register of voters, putting in place technology and training among other areas.

In 2013, the preparations by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) were questioned by the public.

In the run up to 2017, the IEBC has sought to learn from its past experiences and improved the manner in which it conducts business.

One of the notable areas that is seldom highlighted is the calibre of staff in the field. With devolution, counties became a central focus.

Despite this, in 2013 the administrative organisation of the IEBC was around 17 regions headed by co-ordinators.

The county elections were consequently overseen by temporary county returning officers.

This time round, the commission has aligned its structure to the devolved units, getting rid of regions and instead appointing 47 county election managers.

The county election managers have served the commission for several years and gained practical experience in the running of elections.

In addition, the training of staff started early. This was helped by the arrival of the kits that will be used for identification of voters and results transmission in good time.

Last week, I spent a few days out of Nairobi attending several trainings of election agents. It was impressive to note the levels of confidence among the staff in charge of the election kits.

The other two critical institutions are the Judiciary and the security agencies.

My engagement in electoral preparations and training convince me that these two institutions have also put in place measures to be able to discharge their responsibility.

Both have had robust training and administrative arrangements over the last year or so. Neither can say they are not ready for elections.

Despite the above level of preparations, the outcome of the elections will hinge on several factors.

First, the manner in which the various institutions discharge their mandate. It is one thing to be prepared and quite another to do the right thing.

Part of the last minute to-do list must be a revisit of the provisions of the Constitution by each of the institutions.

They must remind themselves that what is expected of them is credibility, professionalism and impartiality.

Secondly, we have the role of the political class. We have heard robust and competitive campaigns. It is now time for the voters to choose. By its nature, elections have winners and losers.

Winners have a right to celebrate while losers will be disappointed.

The country will remain and requires the leadership of both winners and losers. The first task is to ensure that the country is more united than it has been in the past.

Politicians have to commit and take practical steps to unite the country and ensure that the election results lead to cohesion and not division within the country.
Thirdly, the role of the Kenyan citizenry.

As this column argued two weeks ago, the levels of voter education have been limited.

With the changes in the electoral rules and some processes, the limited investment in civic and voter education across the country was unfortunate.

Despite this, citizens are alive to their constitutional responsibility. The General Election present us an opportunity to exercise and delegate our sovereign power to a set of leaders.

It is a solemn duty. We have to take it seriously.

COLLINS ODOTE lectures at the University of Nairobi

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