The report has cautioned that the atmosphere for the elections is becoming more divisive. This is not an encouraging assessment given the sad events that followed the 2007 disputed presidential election results. The KNDR report, dated June 14, and coming only a week after President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga led MPs in a national conference in Mombasa on peaceful elections, should be taken with the seriousness it deserves. Even of more concern is the fact that prior to the Mombasa Conference, the PM had told Parliament the country’s spy agency was concerned about ethnic based politics, which it felt could divide the country ahead of elections. Equally of concern is that the KNDR report says there is lack of a unifying theme to enable Kenyans to elect a credible leader.
The report by South Consulting is out of the 13th review meetings on the status of implementation of the KNDR agreements with a focus on elections by the African Union Panel of Eminent African Personalities whose chair is Kofi Annan, the former United Nations Secretary General and Kenya’s lead negotiator during the 2007/2008 post-election violence. South Consulting is the research firm designated by the Panel of Eminent African Personalities to undertake independent monitoring and evaluation of the implementation, and the fact that its findings are similar to concerns by local leaders, calls for faster intervention.
The KNDR report indicates the divisive atmosphere was as a result of politicians mobilising support along ethnic lines, and that the expected ICC trial of four Kenyans charged with crimes against humanity during the post-election violence was also polarising the country between those who support and those who oppose the ICC intervention.
The report notes while the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) enjoyed high levels of trust among Kenyans, pre-election environment faced several challenges, among them uncertainty over the election date, court cases on boundary delimitation, and failure to enforce discipline in political practice by enforcing the law, particularly the Political Parties Act.
The funding questions at the IEBC, whether local or from development partners, is equally of great concern.
While opening the Mombasa conference last week, President Kibaki promised the Government would provide security and promote peace building and conflict resolution throughout the country. Kibaki’s passionate appeal to politicians was that they play a leading role in facilitating the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections. As we stated here last week, there is need for MPs to uphold the 10-point communiqué they arrived at in Mombasa. But there is even more urgent need for some of the recommendations in the KNDR report to be acted upon. The uncertainty around the election date should be addressed expeditiously and decisively to allow preparation to proceed without anxiety.
Speedy and adequate disbursement of funds by the Government and development partners is necessary to strengthen electoral systems to reclaim public confidence in the ballot. As KNDR says, putting in place a foolproof system for counting votes and transmitting results should also be concluded in a timely manner. Enacting laws is not enough. Implementation and effective enforcement is crucial to promoting an environment that will engender trust in the election process, which is vital for the prevention of electoral violence.
We should build a credible and an all-galvanising theme around which campaigns should revolve to avoid electing leaders on account of negative and parochial considerations. It should be the prayer of all that we experience peaceful elections, and an even more peaceful transition from President Kibaki to whoever Kenyans will elect as their fourth president.