Carter Centre: Police should be held accountable over use of excessive force during elections

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati addresses the media days after the August 8, 2017 elections: The Carter Centre is blaming politicians for the controversies that marred the polls. [John Muchucha/ Standard]

The Carter Centre has released its final report on the 2017 general and presidential elections, which blames the tension that engulfed the polls on political confrontation.

The centre deployed a core team of experts and long-term observers in Kenya in April 2017 to monitor key parts of the electoral process, including voter registration, campaigning, electoral preparations, and the resolution of disputes in the courts. 

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and former Senegalese Prime Minister Aminata Touré led a short-term election observation mission for the August 8 elections that included more than 100 observers from 34 countries.

According to the report, the electoral process was marred by incidents of unrest and violence throughout the extended electoral period. Harsh attacks by top political leaders on electoral and judicial authorities had seriously undermined the independence of the country’s democratic institutions and the rule of law.

Confrontational tactics by political leaders polarised the country and exposed the deep tribal and ethnic rifts that have long characterized its politics.

The Carter Centre observers found that pre-election period included a reasonably adequate but flawed voter registration process, which included an independent audit and corrective actions to address some of the many errors in the list.

The observers found that the voting and counting processes during the August 8 election were generally well-administered. However, observers noted problems during the subsequent processes of electronically transmitting polling station results and their tabulation at county-level tallying centres.

The team has recommended a comprehensive review of the electoral legal framework, including for party primaries and electoral dispute resolution to address gaps and inconsistencies identified by stakeholders, civil society organizations, and the election commission during the 2017 election cycle.

It now wants Parliament to consider extending the deadline for Supreme Court to resolve challenges to the results of a presidential election from the current 14 days to a minimum of 30 days. This would allow for a thorough consideration of all issues and sufficient time to implement a recount if the court deems it necessary.

Carter Centre has also recommended the need to amend the election law provisions regarding criteria for annulling elections.  

The team suggested that security forces found culpable of misconduct during elections should be held accountable. Allegations of excessive use of force or other misconduct should be investigated, with those found culpable of criminal acts held accountable.

In order to enhance transparency for future elections, the report says IEBC should strengthen its public outreach capacity and provide prompt information on its decision-making. The commission should operate openly, hold public meetings, publish and disseminate meeting minutes to inform the public of its decisions and votes.

It is also recommended that Political party leaders should proactively pursue inter-party dialogue at the national to local levels to address the deep political divides that emerged throughout the 2017 electoral period. Political parties should also implement a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech, intimidation, and violence and hold party members and supporters accountable for violating the policy.