By Solomon Atela
The place of integrity within a personal and organizational space is an invaluable distinctive organizational capability. The efficacy of systems and process is an outcome of the integrity of the people running them. An electoral system must be both ethically and legally compliant, and of necessity founded on the tenets of fairness, inclusivity, openness, justice, transparency, and accountability.
Elections is not an event but a process whose integrity goes beyond the happenings on an election day. The actions and decisions of all electoral stakeholders should be born out of a consummate desire for greater good. This responsibility does not rest only with lead agencies in the electoral process but also with all key stakeholders. It is demanded of all duty bearers and holders to exercise the privilege with due consciousness, commitment.
Kenya is a nation in love with politics. The energy and resources spent on the electoral process paint a picture of a country and a people struggling to govern themselves. As the campaign bells ring louder towards the August 8th 2022 general poll, the environment is awash with talk shows, as groups and individuals seek to outdo each other in political discourses often filled with skewed facts and conjured lies. If the passion witnessed during the political campaign period were channeled into more productive causes, our predisposition to hunger, and other avoidable calamities will
be much less.
The tendency to shift blame and abscond culpability whenever questions of electoral integrity are raised, is an evidence of a people not at peace with self. It matters not how long we look for scapegoats, the integrity of our electoral process must be our utmost agenda. Consequently. The electoral eye must intentionally onboard both electoral managers, and other key stakeholder groups: the citizens, lead agencies, political parties, professional associations, religious organizations, civil society groups, and media practitioners. These stakeholder groups are indispensable cogs within the electoral wheel and lend a credible voice of confidence to the fidelity and validity of an electoral.
The actions and decisions by Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Ethics and Anticorruption Commission (EACC), and Judiciary supported by other agencies, influence the integrity of the electoral process in Kenya. Beyond their constitutional mandate, these agencies owe it to posterity to intentionally and boldly uphold the integrity of all stakeholders in the electoral process in addition to ensuring fidelity to our national values and principles of good governance as espoused in Article 10 of the Constitution. Commitment to uphold integrity throughout the electoral process is not just a legal and regulatory compliance but more of a best practice and desired standards in ethics and leadership. Notwithstanding any negative aspersions, these agencies are obligated to act ethically, and fairly within the dictates of moral and ethical convictions.
The sovereignty of the people is a fundamental inalienable right; sovereign power belongs to the people. The Election Offences Act, 2016(d) provides that a voter shall: not sell or buy voter’s card; not exchange a voter’s card for money, food, beer or any other gift. Any contravention of these requirements is akin to selling your ethics and your democratic right. In exercising their democratic right, citizens must be conscious that they can change a corrupt system. The ballot provides each citizen with a unique privilege within the electoral process to exercise due wisdom, knowledge and discretion beyond election and political party managers. When a citizen abuses this right, integrity is thrown out and they willingly place their necks on the chopping board. If the voice of the people is the voice of God, then there is no greater vetting of political aspirants than the people’s voice at the ballot box. The ballot box is not a mere rite of passage.
Political party nominations are most of done without due integrity considerations by ‘party-owners’. In some cases, the nominees are as good as elected given our political mannerisms. As a matter of being ethically conscious and driven, the Registrar of Political parties and political parties should seek to enforce the requirement that a person is disqualified from being elected (nominated) as a member of Parliament (or any other office) if they are found, in accordance with any law, to have misused or abused a state office or public office or in any way to have contravened Chapter Six. We cannot paint the grave yard clean yet remains underneath are irreparably stinking.
Kenya is a land of immense professional talent and prowess. Professional allegiance by individuals and corporates straddle our corporate and regulatory landscape. The country’s challenge is however deficiencies in professional ethical behaviour more than intellectual competencies. Professional associations are robust in membership drives, professional development seminars, media talk shows, but noticeably quiet on the conduct of their members. There is a quiet vow of silence or feigned ignorance of actual or perceived untoward behaviour amongst members. These associations have an opportunity to shape the destiny of their professions and the nation by strengthening integrity within the electoral process, with a focus on their members.
Rigoberta Menchú, a Nobel Prize laureate, observed that without strong watchdog institutions, impunity becomes the very foundation upon which systems of corruption are built; and if impunity is not demolished, all efforts to bring an end to corruption are in vain. Civil society groups including members of the 4th estate(media) are well positioned to drive national civil education and advocacy across the nation and communities. CSOs should objectively engage citizens and communities, so as to redirect the conversation from positions and power to quality of those seeking political leadership. This should be a focused social responsibility aimed at building the capacity of the electorate to make better decisions and decimate the manipulative nature of political elites.
What would God want us do in the current electoral process? Religious institutions are the moral and ethical compass of the society, often agents of holistic transformation. Unfortunately, the clergy and followers may have willingly gone to bed with the political class thus perceived as grossly compromised. What apparently remains of the religious class is the authority of their numbers but less of moral authority. Who then shall boldly but in love call out Caesar’s wife for being naked? The church must of necessity rise from her fallen state, and regain her role as the voice of God. The salt must not lose its saltiness nor the light its power to shine in darkness. The religious fraternity should sustain a nationwide campaign against electoral indiscipline focused on cleansing our electoral processes and outcomes.
When the gods have conspired to punish one, they quietly lead one to the path of eliminating ethics and oversight in pursuit of absolute power. We hope our beloved country and motherland, Kenya, shall not neglect tomorrow at the altar of today’s praise during this season of electioneering. We must jealously guard our elections from the fraud, bigotry, and recklessness of a few of us and therein enthrone integrity within the nuts and bolts of every electoral process and outcome. (