NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 21 – Religious leaders working under the Dialogue Reference Group on Wednesday said they are ready to mediate and facilitate dialogue between the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and political parties in a bid to resolve the stalemate surrounding award of the ballot papers printing tender to a Dubai-based firm.
Speaking during a joint news conference, the leaders from various religious denominations urged all the parties involved to accord them a fair hearing and involvement, so that any dialogue initiative is not prejudiced.
“The persistent delay in resolving the controversy around the procurement of ballot papers is dangerous and unless a party is willing to go to court and secure a directive to the contrary, IEBC should be left to implement the national elections timetable.”
“This notwithstanding, we urge that the IEBC engages in dialogue with all concerned parties to bring this matter to a close, and this Dialogue Reference Group is available to assist so that amicable solutions are agreed upon,” they said in a statement.
According to the religious leaders, proceeding with the elections before seeking a middle ground on the matter would compromise the integrity of the process.
“We have taken note of the concerns raised regarding the procurement of the ballot papers. It is our call upon all concerned parties to learn from the recent past where numerous concerns regarding the electoral process were addressed through the courts of law and not on the streets,” said the members of the clergy representing the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) and Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims (SUPKEM), The Hindu Council of Kenya, and Evangelical Alliance of Kenya among others
The electoral body has been under pressure from the Opposition to cancel the tender after the National Super Alliance (NASA) opposed the award of the tender to Al-Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company citing that it enjoys close ties with the Kenyatta Family.
The multi-denominational group’s statement mirrored the remarks made by the Catholic Bishops on Tuesday, who similarly called for dialogue on the stalemate that now threatens the Commission’s preparations for the August 8 polls.
In their Pastoral Letter on the General Election, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) said the IEBC should consider canceling the tender in case dialogue fails to achieve consensus.
Eldoret Catholic Diocese Archbishop Cornelius Korir cautioned the IEBC against forcing through the ballot printing contract, adding that the credibility of the August 8 poll should be of priority.
“If the dialogue reaches a deadlock, the whole thing should be canceled because it is good to move to the General Election with all parties agreeing,” Archbishop Korir said.
NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga has opposed the award of the tender, claiming the owners of the firm are intimately acquainted with the Kenyatta family and have on several occasion engaged with President Uhuru Kenyatta himself.
IEBC on its part argues that it awarded the tender to Al-Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company because the firm has printed ballot papers which the Commission has used in several by-elections since 2014.
But NASA demanded that the tender to Al-Ghurair be canceled, stating that IEBC’s argument that there is simply no time to switch printers fails to hold water.
Meanwhile, the clergy called on Kenyans and the law enforcement agencies to uphold integrity among leaders and candidates taking part in the poll.
“Any politicians who expressly incite their supporters against other Kenyans should be arraigned in court and subjected to the legal penalties that go with it. While we appreciate that dialogue is important in the promotion of peace and cohesion in the country, we restate that the rule of law should be observed by all Kenyans.”