Courts must deal firmly with election offences

As expected, the 2017 General Election in Kenya might see a very high number of election petitions right from the presidential to the Member of the County Assemblies.

The petitions are largely as a result of reluctance by the political players to accept some of the results as declared by the IEBC, carry-overs by dissatisfied candidates from the party primaries, unfinished cases by the Political Parties Dispute Resolution Tribunal (where individuals might sponsor cases to seek by-elections) and poor performance by independent candidates, which was expected to solve some of the earlier disputes.

Thus there are going to be a number of by-elections across the country, which ideally must be done within six months. Speedy resolution on the elections disputes including getting rid of criminals who commit election offences from our political processes is a major player in the strengthening our the democratization process in the country.

The Judiciary has prepared well ahead of these petitions and must move with speed and efficiency -already over 380 magistrates and over 100 judges trained on Election Dispute Resolution (EDR) and efforts were made to train external lawyers/advocates on EDR to ensure the cases are expeditiously handled.

There exists the Judiciary Committee on Elections whose membership is composed of all levels of the Judiciary and headed by a chairperson, assisted by a deputy with a full secretariat headed by a Chief Executive Officer.

The secretariat is responsible for day-to-day activities of the committee and comprises technical and support staff, some seconded from the Judiciary and others hired specifically for the committee.

Additionally, the JSC has developed a bench book on EDR to guide the EDR Courts, while earlier the Chief Justice had released a memo to all judges and judicial officers relating to clearing case backlog, the development of Supreme Court (Presidential Election Petition) Rules 2017, Parliamentary & County Assembly (Election Petition) Rules 2017 and Court of Appeal (Election Petition) Rules, 2017.

There are also guidelines for the media on how to cover the petitions in a professional manner including the protection of officers involved in the matters. It’s mandatory that media guards against fake news and content that is outside constitutional provisions in the country.

It will be interesting to see if the media in some cases will want to be enjoined in the cases and provide evidence from their tallying processes to the petitions.

These efforts must bear on the elections dispute resolutions in the country within the constitutional provisions in a very credible, transparent and efficient manner, so that we restore trust in our democratization process.

One important thing the courts must do, which many of the relevant bodies have been unable to do, is deal firmly with elections offences including poll related violence, voter bribery, corrupting election officials and fraud as provided for in various laws.

While IEBC and the PPDRT tried during the campaign period and during the party primaries to bring some discipline in our political process, we need firm action against perpetrators of election offences. Hopefully IEBC and political parties will not shield some of the officials and agents who will be proved had allowed themselves to be misused during the voting process. Equally, those defaming others, or accusing others of electoral malpractices without proof should be held responsible.

And the relevant bodies including the DPP, CID, EACC, media, NCIC, AG and witnesses must cooperate lawfully with the process to ensure justice is dispensed to those deserving. Efforts must be made to clean both the political and electoral processes in this country, so that, it becomes paying, satisfying and enjoyable to participate in the processes as a country, citizen and candidate.

The country has been investing heavily in making our electoral process credible, trusted and acceptable by Kenyans, and a few individuals engaged in activities that undermine the electoral process and frustrate Kenyans aspiration for a peace post-election process through acts of commission or omission should be held accountable.

Those who participated in the circumventing the will of the people and it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt before the courts need no protection.

(Bwire is the Deputy CEO of the Media Council of Kenya)

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