Clerical Errors and Kitu Kidogo

As disappointed as I am that the Supreme Court of Kenya (SCOK) has validated the results of the 2013 Elections despite what I would describe as compelling evidence of “massive systemic failure” of the election process, I respect its decision and commit to move on. And as noted in a previous post “The Loyal Opposition and The Fruit,” I fully expected SCOK to uphold Jubilee’s victory review of the polling data notwithstanding. I also noted that when it came to pass, the losing CORD candidates, Raila Odinga in particular, should play the role of the respectful and loyal opposition while mentoring upcoming socio-political leaders. His experience as a reformer is invaluable.

I respect SCOK’s decision because according to the March 30 issue of the Daily Nation in an article titled Supreme Court upholds Uhuru’s election as president, the decision was unanimous. It is encouraging that the five (5) justices AND their chief, Chief Justice Mutunga ALL agreed that Messr’s Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were validly elected as president and vice-president respectively. I am, however, left wondering whether the phenomenon groupthink1 was at work here.

1 – A psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome.

Like someone told me the other day: Opinions are like (fill in your favorite part of the human anatomy), everyone has one. To wit; it is my opinion that SCOK’s decision overlooked the data as presented by Ms. Kilonzo and Mr. Oraro including the admission by Jubilee’s own lawyer Mr. Ngatia that even though there were admitted “clerical errors” tallying the various results from the sampled polling centers, “no mischief” was intended “at all!” I am not a statistician but I have worked and interacted with some of the best statisticians and mathematicians over the past 20+ years in the medical device manufacturing industry here in Silicon Valley. I will say that if I conducted a test that yielded data similar to the data set presented before SCOK by Ms. Kilonzo and Mr. Oraro, peer review would fail my test and compel me to repeat said test – period! The one qualifier I would add to my contention is this: The threshold for reliability of and confidence in election results based on a small sampling of selected polling stations may be different from that reliability and confidence requirements for testing/qualifying processes used to manufacture medical devices!

If ever there was a metaphor for the Kenyan culture of “Kitu Kidogo,” I would say that the process and outcome of the petition filed by CORD is apt! We have Mr. Fred Ngatia, the plaintiff’s lawyer conceding that there were indeed small “clerical errors” whose intentions were not “mischievous at all” – tallying errors nonetheless. We then have the same Mr. Ngatia convincing the SCOK that these “clerical errors” did not invalidate the outcome of the election of his clients and crimes-against-humanity suspects Messer’s Kenyatta and Ruto to the highest offices in the country! I would say that consistent and widespread “clerical errors” tallying and tabulating votes that may potentially determine the outcome of a presidential election deserve more than a flippant characterization and review, especially by the highest court in the land! The frivolity with which Mr. Ngatia portrayed the tallying errors is consistent with the way most Kenyan’s think about bribery, corruption and cutting corners in general; indeed a national Rorschach Test whose outcome is very disturbing:

It is just “kitu kidogo – something small” to expedite issuance of a driver’s license, conveniently overlook some code violations when conducting a building or road inspection or “miss” seeing the bald front tires or faulty brakes on a public service vehicle during a traffic stop! No “mischief” may have been intended in the foregoing scenarios but the end results of these “vitu vidogo” is there for all to see: Drivers who can barely drive let alone understand/obey traffic rules, construction – roads and buildings – that crumble and fall apart shortly after being commissioned leaving death, destruction and misery in their wake and carnage on the road due to accidents caused by a combination of ill-gotten driver’s licenses, drunk driving, vehicles that are not road-worthy and supposed highways in various stages of dis-repair. In short, the culture of so-called and allegedly un-mischievous/benign “clerical errors, typos, computer glitches, vitu vidogo” has mutated into a cancer that is slowly but surely killing the national spirit and cohesion! But hey…”nothing mischievous was intended.” It was just something small.

The foregoing aside, the Supreme Court has rendered its verdict: Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and William Samoei Ruto are scheduled to be sworn in as President and Vice-President of Kenya on April 9, 2013. They will then have about two months before they board the plane to The Hague for their date with Ms. Fatu Bensouda on charges of crimes against the very humanity that elected them into office.

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Corruption, Democracy, Elections, Justice, Kenya, Politics

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