We must return to normalcy quickly

A section of Moi Avenue remains empty on August 9, 2017. Photo | Kanyiri Wahito | NMG
A section of Moi Avenue remains empty on August 9, 2017. Photo | Kanyiri Wahito | NMG 

I am really praying that the process of manually checking forms 34A and 34B will not cause the announcement of the presidential election results to drag for too long.

As we went to press, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced that they had so far received 117 of the 34B forms.

The commission said they had directed returning officers to present the remaining forms for verification by noon Friday.

Clearly, it must take its full share of blame for taking the country through a protracted period of unnecessary anxiety.

What was the point of hurrying to announce provisional results for presidential elections when they knew very well that only results derived from forms 34A and 34B would count at the end of the day?

When you splash presidential election results on television sets even before the polls have closed and return hardly hours later to inform everybody to ignore the results they have been seeing for hours - you breed suspicions of fraud even where there is none.

Why is it that it has now become difficult to get returning officers to present Form 34A and yet these officials were the same people who moved with alacrity to send results splashed on television screens through text messages?

The circumstances left me with a feeling of deja vu. In 2007, former Electoral Commission of Kenya chairman, the late Samwel Kivuitu, loudly complained that he was unable to reach returning officers as some of them had switched off their phones adding - apparently in jest - that some local election officials were holding onto results in order to ‘cook’ them.

This behaviour by returning officers is what sparked rumours that election results in former president Mwai Kibaki’s strongholds were being delayed deliberately so they could be padded in the president’s favour.

In the coming hours, how quickly we return to normalcy will now depend on how long the process of manual validation and verification of Forms 34A and 34B takes and what the contents will reveal.

Let us all hope that the verification process will not unearth many major discrepancies because the damage to the credibility of the election results might be very grave.

Chances for a quick announcement of presidential election results and return to normalcy especially in our capital city - Nairobi - still remain in deep jeopardy.

In retrospect, where the IEBC has totally failed is in handling communication.

During an incidence of such national significance, communication must be taken more seriously.

Where failure in communication was most evident was on the issue of whether the IEBC system was hacked or not. Was the IEBC system hacked or not? Was there an attempt to hack into the elections transmission system?

At one point, CEO Ezra Chiloba came out to categorically assert that the systems were safe and secure and that there had been no attempt to hack into IEBC’s computers.

A few hours later, IEBC commissioner Yakoub Guliye, who chairs the ICT committee, admitted at a Press briefing that there had been attempts to hack into the computers.

This is how he put it : ‘We have seen some attempts by some people to hack into our system, but they did not succeed because we have invested heavily in surveillance systems.’

On Thursday, the commission confirmed during a Press briefing that an attempt had indeed been made at hacking the system.

Who were these people who tried to hack into the IEBC system?

Conspiracy theorists adore a vacuum. When – during an incident of such significant national importance you make contradictory statements as the commissioners did, you feed doubt about your partisanship and even-handedness even when you are not.