, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 9 – The civil society now wants the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) left alone to procure Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits ahead of next year’s General Election.
At a press conference on Thursday the Institute for Education in Democracy (IED) said the government should keep off the procurement process and respect the IEBC’s decision as it was an independent body.
IED Chairperson Jane Ogot argued that the Executive should not call the shots over the fate of the tendering process as such a move would jeopardise the credibility of the forthcoming polls.
“It is our view that the action taken by the Executive including issuing directives to the IEBC on what to do with regard to voter registration was an affront to its independence,” she argued.
Executive Director Peter Aling’o also asked the government to clarify what a government-to-government tendering process meant.
He noted that the polls attracted high political interests making it vital for the IEBC to remain independent. He said that there were personalities in the Executive that had already declared interest in various elective posts in the upcoming elections.
“The IEBC had already indicated that the controversy that arose out of the BVR tendering process was because of the high political interest including the high amount of money that was involved (in the tender),” he noted.
“When the government took over and told us that procurement would be done on the basis of government-to-government we begun to ask what that meant,” he said.
The issue has also been raised in Parliament with Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale seeking a ministerial statement from Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa, on the nature of the BVR procurement.
Ogot also expressed concern over the divisions within the IEBC itself saying it ought to speak in one voice especially as it prepared for the next elections.
She said the country could not afford to have a repeat of the bloody 2007/2008 post poll violence.
“There cannot be two electoral commissions; one constituted by the IEBC commissioners and the other by the Chief Executive Officer and the Secretariat. Any perception of a rift within the commission has the potential to impact negatively on the integrity and credibility of the IEBC,” she argued.
The group also reminded Kenyans that the biometric voter registration was not the same thing as electronic voting.
Ogot further emphasised the need for the electoral commission to have political goodwill.
“We are appealing to everyone to recognise that although the use of appropriate technology in elections cannot be over stressed, technology alone cannot solve all our problems, particularly those of a political nature,” she observed.
The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) at the same time raised the red flag over the issue saying the events surrounding the BVR tendering process risked undermining public confidence in the electoral commission.
NCCK General Secretary Peter Karanja also urged the government to respect the independence of the electoral body so as to safeguard the elections.
“The row surrounding the procurement of the BVR system and the apparent divisions among the Commissioners and the Secretariat are red flags that Kenyans are watching with trepidation,” he said.
The NCCK further asked the IEBC to ensure that it ran transparent and credible processes as it prepared for the elections.
“It is of absolute importance that the IEBC makes all its processes accountable with a deliberate move to publish documents so as to remove any reasons for public suspicions,” he noted.