November 23rd 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

America, Britain not helping Kenyan democracy, says top British newspaper

Rather than accepting that risk, Kenya’s western allies should be defending the case for a fair procedure, and pledging help. International organisations, possibly the UN, should consider offering to play a role in running the election.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comMonday, 23 Oct 2017 13:44 EAT

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec (centre) addressing a media conference on the election with other western envoys.

The Financial Times of London has urged western powers to look critically into Kenya's repeat presidential election scheduled for October 26. With only three days left to the vote, the FT has raised concerns that the election will plunge Kenya into a deep political crisis. 

Below is an editorial published by the FT, which is accessible here.

Kenya can ill-afford another flawed election
Better to delay Thursday’s poll in favour of a more credible re-run

Kenyans need to take a step back. The country, east Africa’s leading economy, is hurtling towards a treacherous showdown which in all likelihood would leave an enduring stain. Yet there is no inevitability about the bad blood that will flow from repeat presidential elections, should they go ahead as scheduled on Thursday. It now requires magnanimity on the part of incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta and his arch rival Raila Odinga if it is to be avoided. Ideally the conditions for a free, fair and closely monitored vote would already be in place.

When it annulled Mr Kenyatta’s victory in August polls, on the grounds that the exercise was riddled with “irregularities” and “illegalities”, the Supreme Court allowed 60 days for the necessary changes to be made for a fresh and credible vote to take place. But the judges did not detail what those changes should be.

Instead they warned that if the election process remains as flawed as it was in August, they would not hesitate to cancel the outcome again. It is plain that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is not ready. Last week Roselyn Akombe, one of the commissioners, resigned and fled to the US after receiving death threats. “This election as planned cannot meet the basic expectations of a credible election,” she said.

Shortly afterwards, the chief executive of the commission took three weeks’ leave. The IEBC chairman, meanwhile, has raised his own doubts about the process. If the electoral commission itself is not confident of the result, Kenyans certainly cannot be. The context of the past two polls in Kenya, in 2007 and 2013, is important. On both occasions, Mr Odinga had good reason to suspect foul play.

In 2007, it brought the country to the brink of civil war. It was doubly important that this year the process was seen to be free and fair. Yet the torture and murder, 10 days before the vote, of the man charged with running the electronic transmission of results, widespread discrepancies between electronic and paper tallies on the day, and patterns in the count redolent of an intervention, all planted doubts.

Mrs Akombe’s statement last week suggest that those doubts remain. America and Britain have played an unhelpful role, seeming to favour a quick process over a demonstrably fair one. If the election goes ahead on Thursday without Mr Odinga, his supporters would have every reason to feel disenfranchised.

Rather than accepting that risk, Kenya’s western allies should be defending the case for a fair procedure, and pledging help. International organisations, possibly the UN, should consider offering to play a role in running the election. Whatever happens will require a shake-up in personnel at the IEBC, which by all accounts has been undermined by political partisanship, intimidation, and other skulduggery.

Secondly, a robust and independent system to monitor the transmission and collation of results must be put in place such that all sides can trust the eventual result. In the first elections, international observers judged voting fair, but did not stick around to assess the transition and tallying.

Lastly, a pause is needed to allow tempers to cool. The electoral commission should admit that it is not yet in a position to hold a new vote. Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga should then put their heads together and be seen to agree on what is in the national interest. The country will more easily endure a short period of continued uncertainty than it will the outcome of another flawed election.

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