November 25th 2017

Top Stories / National

The tight race between Kenyatta and Raila draws global attention

Part of what made EU choose Kenya over Rwanda has a lot to do with the political activity in both countries, with Rwanda currently enjoying a less volatile political atmosphere.

By Derrick Kirakadkiraka@kenyafreepress.comWednesday, 28 Jun 2017 15:19 EAT

Members of the European Union election observation mission wave during the deployment of long-term observers to 13 locations yesterday. (Photo: Courtesy Star)

The deployment of 30 election observers to 13 locations in the country by European Union yesterday ahead of the much contested August 8th general elections, with 32 more expected in August, tells how the tight race between President Kenyatta and NASA’s Raila Odinga is becoming a global issue. These 62 observers will join the 10 long-term experts who have been in Kenya since the 10th of June.

The 10 experts are part of the expert mission, which differs from the observer mission such that, while the observer mission is out to observe if the elections are free and fair, the expert mission assesses the potential political, social, media and economic risks before the polls and examines likely interventions.

 The team, which is in the country on invitation by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), is in the country not on security mission but to ensure that credibility and democracy are upheld in the upcoming general elections although it is understood that among their key concerns is the possibility of flare ups like the 2007 violence.

The 30 election observers were flagged off by the EU election observation mission to Kenya deputy chief Hannah Roberts, who said that the missions aim will oversee the electioneering process before, during and after the polls.

“We always dispatch them in two pairs so that we can get reliable information and balanced opinions. They will be going out to see the ground reality of what is happening with this election process in Kenya,” Ms Roberts said.

She also added that 32 more short-term observers will arrive much closer to the Election Day to reinforce the current team. The mission will then release a preliminary statement based on the information collected, checked and analysed by the mission two days prior to the elections. A final report with recommendations for future election reforms will be released two months later.

Ms Roberts noted that, through its Chief Observer Ms Marietje Schaake, the EU is committed to giving important contribution to the election process, though it in no way seek to validate nor discredit the electoral process but rather, offer a neutral view of the process and ensure that the elections are credible and that democracy is ensured.

Ms Schaake, a member of the European Parliament, is expected in the country tomorrow for a series of meetings with officials, candidates and other stakeholders, which will then result in a news conference to officially launch the EU EOM on July 3rd.

In contrast, the EU has decided not to send an observer mission to Rwanda, who will go to the polls four days before the Kenyan electorate hits the ballot and this in part, has to do with the intensity of the current election temperatures in Kenya, with even the Catholic Bishops in the country fearing for a 2007 like burst up if caution was not taken.

The elections this year are building up to be one of the most fiercely contested in the history of the country, with the stage set for a grueling tight race between the two biggest parties in the country currently Jubilee, the incumbent and NASA, the opposition coalition, who launched their manifesto a day after Jubilee.

With the party primaries experiencing the ripples of the high-octane build up to the August 8th elections, which were also under the observation of the long-term observer, the fears of a possible flare up has led to the EU sending to Kenya a historic number of observers and experts, with the current number of 72 being the highest in the country in the four general elections that the EU has overseen since 2002.

Also, since the EU started the mission to monitor elections in countries round the world in 2000, there have been more than 50 countries whose elections they have overseen, with the number of observers being over 100. In Kenya this year alone we have 72. As such, the importance of a free, fair and violence-free election cannot be overstated. All the political class should be bound by a declaration to maintain peace and avoid inflammatory language as the passions are cranked up as the clocks wind down.

Part of what made EU choose Kenya over Rwanda has a lot to do with the political activity in both countries, with Rwanda currently enjoying a less volatile political atmosphere. The political temperatures in Rwanda is a contradiction to Kenya’s. In Rwanda, the politics talk is less inflammatory, sober and thoughtful while in Kenya, this are the moments where tongues are lets loose like dogs on a man hunt.

There is also the fact that the lack of intense competition for the incumbent Rwanda President Paul Kagame may have led to the EU deciding not to send a mission there, with President Paul Kagame more than assured of victory, considering many of the opposition have thrown their weight behind him except for three, who will go head to head with him.

It is this that seemed to have been the culmination of the closed door meeting held in the last week of April between Head of EU delegation Mr Michael Ryan and a company of ambassadors from Germany, Belgium, UK and France, which led to Mr Michael Ryan declaring in early May that the EU did not have resources to send observers to Rwanda but had chosen where to put their resources.

“We are not sending any formal observer missions to the (Rwanda) August elections. We don’t see the need and have limited resources. There are many elections in the world and we have decided where to put our resources.” Mr. Ryan said.

With Kenya being sharp under the microscope of international scrutiny, it is for the best interest of the country that the political temperatures do not spill over and that the upcoming elections be a mark of maturity from a country still reeling from the aftershocks of the chaos ten years ago. As such, it will be beneficial for the country that the report after the general elections by the observer and expert missions in the country, which will be finalized three weeks after the chaos, will be positive and complementary.

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