How serious is Kenya’s IEBC about strict enforcement and prosecution of election law violations?

From a Daily Nation headline story on fines and jail time for election law violators:

A candidate who uses public wealth in political campaigns will be fined Sh10 million or jailed for six years.

If Mr Miguna Miguna were to repeat his feat of wrestling Chepalungu MP Isaac Rutto to the ground at the main tallying centre, he would be liable to a Sh1 million fine or a jail term of five years.

Even a thirsty voter who accepts a bottle of water or soda from a political party representative could find himself or herself on the wrong side of the law.

These are among a wide range of offences contained in the Elections Act to curb vote rigging, hooliganism and bribery as Kenyans head to the polls scheduled for March 4, 2013.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) bosses have promised to enforce the law to the letter and appealed to all politicians and voters to follow it.

“We have to learn from the lessons of 2007/08. . . .”

. . . .

Commission chief executive James Oswago said the laws would be enforced following the creation of the departments of prosecution and investigations at the IEBC.

“We are in a position to investigate offences and prosecute cases without referring to any other authority,” he said.

Offences range from falsifying and buying voters cards, double registration, conduct at polling stations, secrecy of commission staff, undue influence, bribery, use of violence, use of public resources and use of national security organs to gain advantage.

Obviously this would be revolutionary if the IEBC could pull it off. This would create a whole new kind of campaign in Kenya–suddenly, this year. See Vote Buying and Women Candidates in Kenya.

While I am certainly all for the concept, there is also an important lesson in the saying “you have to crawl before you can walk”.  For one thing, enforcement authority in the Electoral Commission is a new thing and the capacity has to be created from scratch with the campaign already ongoing.  And the culture of politics in Kenya certainly won’t change overnight.  To date, there have been no prosecutions of even the most egregious election offenses at the highest levels from the last election, much less the rampant “garden variety” vote buying.  Impunity has a fifty-year history.

Just as with implementation of the latest technologies, the new IEBC needs to be careful about realism and resources–and maintaining its credibility by not over-promising while trying to do more than is possible in its inaugural effort.  A lot of sober judgment is going to be required to prioritize and focus enforcement in an evenhanded way that weeds out the worst offenses and ends up generating real progress that Kenyans can see and “buy”.

2 thoughts on “How serious is Kenya’s IEBC about strict enforcement and prosecution of election law violations?

  1. Pingback: Kenya: IEBC Tender Team Quits Over Biometric Deal « Africa's Public Procurement & Entrepreneurship Research Initiative – APPERI

  2. IEBC definitely has some hurdles to overcome especially that election campaigns by the major presidential campaigns have already began even before the IEBC has sanctioned them. Also I think the it should cease being referred to as Interim and be legitimized into an independent body, that way it will have more teeth to control its affairs.

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