Columnists

IEBC must ensure peaceful polls to safeguard economic stability

Wafula Chebukati

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The elections early next month will test whether Kenya has learned from previous electoral excesses that disrupted peace and the economy while tarnishing the country's image in the eyes of the international community.

Past elections have routinely prompted capital flight from Kenya, with foreign investors at NSE — unsure of economic stability around the election — time selling off and repatriating dollars.

Foreign direct investments were postponed awaiting the outcome of elections for fear of violence and instability. Some investors were scared of the possibility of radical economic policy changes.

Investor caution and slow-down abound roughly one year prior to elections and one year after elections, meaning that two out of five years of each electoral cycle are mostly lost to uncertainty. Indeed, capital by nature hates disruptions and uncertainties.

So far this year election campaigns appear to have passed a critical test as physical violence has been mostly absent — a positive indication that it is possible to conclude the electoral process peacefully and with dignity.

Times have changed and new generations have come into political participation with more cosmopolitan perspectives, and this may have helped to reduce potential for electoral disorders. However, obvious hateful rhetoric and misinformation are indications that political tolerance is far from being achieved.

Another observation is that stakes and expectations from this year elections appear extremely high, which puts added pressure on Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to ensure that the electoral process and systems will deliver results which are clearly beyond challenge.

From past experiences, it is when electoral bodies failed to deliver elections and results that were beyond doubt in integrity and correctness that electoral violence erupted. The electoral team should therefore learn from previous loopholes and avoid repeats, while proactively anticipating and preparing for potential new areas of process and system failures.

Further, the IEBC will need to implement an effective capacity for public communication to keep the public correctly and professionally informed on a timely basis. During elections, information vacuum is a prescription for disaster.

It is when correct and timely information is absent, or when information is hijacked by vested interests that rumors heighten and stoke violence. This is even more critical considering the new influence of social media.

The IEBC should therefore proactively ensure it implements an electoral process that delivers peaceful elections and assures a smooth transfer of power. It is quite a heavy mandate and trust placed on them to deliver results that will pass the test.

Politicians will have done their campaigns, voters delivered their decisions, leaving it to IEBC team to correctly quantify the verdict.

This year elections are happening when nearly every country of this world is preoccupied with own challenging economic problems and geopolitics. Unlike in yesteryears, hardly any country will have enough time to spare to check what is happening with Kenya elections.

As a country we are indeed on our own, which is the way it should normally be, making it imperative for us to conduct smooth and fair elections to their finality.

Yes, post-election sociopolitical continuity is important for business and economy in general, especially now that the country is grappling with real economic challenges that require all economic players to be fully available and alert to produce and deliver goods and services immediately after the elections.

This will permit the new leaders to peacefully settle in office and hopefully deliver on their promises.

George Wachira, Petroleum Focus Consultants. [email protected]