EU report generates diplomatic heat

Chief European Election observer Marietta Schaake during an interview with the standard at a Nairobi hotel. [Photo by Beverlyne Musili/Standard]
The European Union (EU) election observation mission has called for urgent electoral reforms to secure Kenya’s future elections.

Chief Observer, Marietje Schaake, the mission has made 29 recommendations to make Kenya's elections more credible and transparent.

Key recommendations include reforms aimed at improving resilience of independent institutions, inclusive legal reform, improved ICT arrangements and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) oversight.

EU also recommends a legal requirement for a comprehensive results framework, and a review of the electoral system to promote the participation of women and inclusivity.

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However, the report immediately sparked controversy.

On one hand, Ms Schaake said the report was released in Brussels after the Kenyan government stated it was not prepared to receive the Chief Observer in Nairobi at this time.

But Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium Johnson Weru disputed her assertion and accused EU of breaching protocol.

In a hard hitting statement sent to media, Mr Weru accused Schaake of disregarding the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in Nairobi on June 8t last year.

“The Government of Kenya regrets the unprocedural and premature manner in which the final report has been released. Her action has breached the terms of an MOU on election monitoring with EU, which called for a structured and official process,” Weru said.

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He said Kenya had scheduled a meeting with EU in Nairobi yesterday.

“I call upon EU to demonstrate that is committed to its agreements with its partners. Hon Schaake has personalised and intrumentalised a tool meant to improve electoral management,” Weru said.

Weru described Schaake’s actions as disdainful, condescending and offensive to the multilateral understanding under Article 8 and 96 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between EU and 79 countries that constitute Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP).

Schaake, while releasing the mission’s final report on the 2017 General Election yesterday in Brussels, Belgium accused Jubilee and the Opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) of breaking electoral laws and fuelling animosity in the country.

She castigated the political leaders for disrespecting independent offices and misuse of public resources.

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The commission accused politicians from both sides of attempts at restricting civil society and media, and abuse of state resources by both sides but mostly to the benefit of the president.

Other key concerns in the report include intimidation by politicians from both sides of independent institutions, such as the IEBC and the judiciary, violence by opposition protestors and the use of disproportionate force by security forces.

“The Kenyan people, including five million young people able to vote for the first time, showed eagerness to participate in shaping the future of their country,” Schaake said.

“However, the electoral process was damaged by political leaders attacking independent institutions and by lack of dialogue between the two sides, with escalating disputes and violence,” stated EU.

Jubilee was criticised for unilateral amendments to electoral legislation during the fresh election, harsh rhetoric against the judiciary and acts of intimidation against civil society.

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“These were highly antagonistic and not consistent with international commitments and good practice for democratic functioning,” stated EU.

The observers decried disproportionate actions by security forces, including the use of live bullets, saying it cost the country dozens of lives.

The report also noted incidences of sexual violence.

“Criminal elements and gangs also contributed to the violence. There was an increasingly ethnic dimension, with ethnic profiling and threats observed in different parts of the country,” Schaake said.

Opposition supporters were faulted using intimidation to bar voters from polling stations.

The observers noted that in Nyanza there were severe obstructions and violence, resulting in the IEBC declaring indefinite postponement of polling in 25 constituencies (out of a national total of 290).

The mission also noted that the Supreme Court’s annulment of the August presidential election was historic in ruling against an incumbent president and for focusing on the process of the election rather than the result.

“The ruling appeared to prompt improvements in results transmission, verification and transparency in the fresh presidential election in October and thus raised standards of public service. However, the political environment deteriorated sharply,” Schaake said.

She hoped that final report will contribute to more resilient democracy from which all Kenyans benefit.

“Kenyans went from high hopes for these elections to many disappointments and confrontations. Kenya remains deeply divided. Our final report and recommendations are intended to contribute to a better democratic process and a restoration of trust,” she said.

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