As Kenyans go to the polls tomorrow to vote in general elections, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS calls on the authorities, leaders of political parties and communities to adhere to democratic principles and respect the will of all Kenyans.
Kenya has a history of violence during election seasons and fear of a recurrence has dominated the period of political campaigns. Kenyan authorities and leaders of political parties have a responsibility to ensure a peaceful and transparent election, which will enhance Kenya’s democratic credentials.
Human rights violations committed over the last few months have raised security concerns and increased calls for all involved in the vote to avoid a repeat of the violence that followed the 2007-2008 elections in which over 1,000 people were killed and more than 500,000 internally displaced.
Last week, Chris Msando, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) head of Information, Communication and Technology, was found dead after being missing for three days. Msando had played a key role in the development of a new electronic ballot and voter registration system and complained of death threats shortly before he was killed.
Since Msando oversaw the new electronic system regarded as key to eliminating vote rigging and ensuring the credibility of the elections, his killing raises serious concerns over threats of violence related to electoral malpractices. Prior to the adoption of the new system, Kenya’s High Court nullified a contract awarded to Dubai-based Al-Ghurair Printing and Publishing, a company with alleged links to President Uhuru Kenyatta. Following the court’s 9 July ruling, President Kenyatta and his Jubilee Coalition questioned the independence of the judiciary and accused it of supporting the political opposition.
The election campaign period has also been dominated by an exchange of accusations between President Uhuru Kenyatta and main opposition leader, Raila Odinga. The President accused Odinga of trying to divide Kenya and provoke violence and Odinga, in turn, accused the President of planning to rig the vote. While the 2013 elections were largely peaceful, violence erupted following the 2007 elections after political figures encouraged supporters to protest election results.
“Kenya’s politics is largely based on ethnic affiliations and the views of political figures are taken seriously. It will be very important for leaders to avoid using language that may incite the population and instigate violence during and after tomorrow’s elections. Said David Kode, CIVICUS’ Head of Advocacy and Campaigns.
There has been violence among rival parties’ supporters during the nominations of candidates for positions of president, legislators and local councillors. Human rights defenders and journalists have also been attacked, intimidated and vilified as they sought to access voter registration stations and polling booths and report on political campaigns. On 18 June 2017, Walter Menya of the Nation newspaper was arrested and held at an undisclosed location for two days before being released without charge. Some communities have heightened tensions by accusing activists and journalists of anti-nationalist agendas for making representations at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 polls.
CIVICUS calls on the Kenyan authorities, politicians and leaders to act in a responsible manner and respect the will of the electorate during and after the elections.
Kenya’s civic space is rated as ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe. It is currently on the Monitor’s Watch List of countries where there are serious and ongoing threats to civic space.
Watch our interview with activist and poet Sitawa Namwalie talking about about her hopes and fears for 2017 Kenyan Elections.
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Senior Media Advisor
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Head of Advocacy and Campaigns