January 22nd 2018

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Biased security forces a cause for worry in run-up to elections

We are gravely concerned because all indications suggest that the bias of security services witnessed in 2007 has not significantly changed heading towards 2017 general elections, unlike 2013.

By Ndung'u WainainaTuesday, 24 Jan 2017 12:05 EAT

Anti-riot Police (Photo: Allan Muturi / Kenya Free Press).

Kenya is headed to a very volatile and vicious electoral contest that requires high threshold of integrity, credibility and transparency. Actions by security services, all controlled by the national government and majority of whose key leadership fails to reflect the diversity of the country as required by the Constitution, could aggravate tensions around the polls due to perceived bias and undermine the credibility of elections outcomes and integrity of the vote. The incidences of fully armed security forces outside Parliament on Tuesday December 20, 2016 and a social media post of person claiming to a police officer threatening two Members of Parliament were deeply troubling.

One unique feature of a well-entrenched constitutional and peaceful electoral democracy is a neutral security set up. Biased security institutions create an atmosphere of heightened tension with some losing their credibility in the process. We at ICPC conduct monitoring on the neutrality and impartiality of the security institutions to ensure no interference with the activities of electoral process and/or exerting of influence on the election environment. 

We are gravely concerned because all indications suggest that the bias of security services witnessed in 2007 has not significantly changed heading towards 2017 general elections, unlike 2013. There are serious concerns that political tensions could rise as a result of the presidential election and that localized violence may occur due to ethnic/clan/factions in county elective positions.

ICPC warns security agencies to be impartial in providing security pre, during and after elections. It is particularly important that security agencies provide security for elections in an impartial manner in accordance with Articles 238(2) and 239(30 of the Constitution of Kenya. When security services and other state actors who are supposed to act independently are thought to be taking sides, it has the tendency of creating spite and rancor. This is happened with 2007 general elections with serious ramifications. We are especially deeply concerned that the President in unconstitutional step placed the National Intelligence Service(NIS) under his control.

ICPC further observes that neutrality and independence of the civil service especially unnecessary provincial administration in electoral process is pertinent. Political parties should reaffirm their commitment to peaceful polls. Electoral body (IEBC) should continue to enhance transparency and confidence in the electoral process by expanding and intensifying its engagement through active consultation with stakeholders and public outreach. 

Security services have serious constitutional responsibilities to the people of the Kenya and so their importance to the health of the country cannot be under estimated. It is therefore imperative that their leaders must not drag these invaluable institutions into the realm of partisan politics.

Security agencies have a constitutional obligation, duty and responsibility to ensure that electoral integrity is not compromised to avoid political destabilization. To effectively safeguard the electoral process, each and every security agent must remain absolutely neutral and professional in dealing with all parties and elections candidates. There should be zero tolerance for disrespect of the law and the disregard of the constitutional and civil rights of the citizens, voters and contestants alike.

We therefore urge strongly security agencies and security personnel stick to, and concentrate on, their core constitutional duties; otherwise they stand the risk of becoming part of already complicated toxic political environment. We emphasis again that state institutions responsible for the administration and security of an election must fulfill their mandates impartially.

An election is a mechanism by which people are able to exercise their political, civil and human rights at no fee. Security protocols must consider and acknowledge these rights, as well as the heightened sensitivity and scrutiny to the respect for these rights that occur during an election period. 

The writer is the Executive Director of the International Center for Policy and Conflict (ICPC).

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