Forget 2017 flaws and open new chapter, say observers

Head of EAC election observation mission Dr Jakayla Kikwete while flagging off 52 election observers drawn from various EAC member states. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The controversial 2017 presidential election results nullified by the Supreme Court has come back to haunt the Observation Missions accredited to monitor Tuesday’s General Election.

The Observer Missions approved the poll only for the Chief Justice David Maraga-led Supreme Court to annul the outcome on account of serious breaches of the law, including challenges of transmission.

The head of IGAD Observation Mission Mulatu Teshome, also former President of Ethiopia, downplayed what transpired five years ago, saying what matters now is Kenya’s future.

“There is absolutely no reason why we should start talking about what happened in 2017,” the former President said when asked whether the Observer Community feels embarrassed by the way things played out at that time.

“Our focus is where Kenya stands today. We don’t want to look backwards,” he said, adding that his mandate is only to speak for IGAD – a regional organisation that brings together six countries in East Africa and the Horn.

IEBC has accredited 18,000 observers to monitor the Tuesday elections. However, the observers will take up their mandate against the ghosts of 2017 poll which was annulled, necessitating a repeat poll held on October 26.

The observers had ignored protests from the opposition which had raised serious issues surrounding the illegal access to IEBC data base and the manner in which the results were transmitted.

IGAD is one of the international organisations accredited to monitor the conduct of the poll. It has deployed 31 personnel in various parts of the country.

Poll shortcomings

Dr Teshome said a lot has changed and expressed confidence IEBC had addressed shortcomings identified by the Supreme Court.

He said a joint assessment of the observer mission groups and Kenya’s civil society groups had shown IEBC is well prepared.

“We have had initial meetings with IEBC and we are proud and comfortable that they are well prepared by the Kenyan standards. We have also challenged them to ensure they satisfy the demands by Kenyans for a free and fair poll.”

However, the former President was measured on whether the mission can learn from events five years ago and return a harsher verdict should things go wrong on Tuesday.

“Kenya is a sovereign country and we shall speak only to the extent of the mandate given to us by IGAD,” he said.

“We shall voice our observation depending on how things play out. If things go right, we shall applaud. If we see some things go wrong, we shall consult other observation teams from Africa and give a verdict that will give hope to Africa,” he said.

He however reminded presidential candidates that IGAD had been deployed because Kenya is an important actor in the region and the continent.

“Let them put the interests of the people ahead of theirs because Kenya is bigger than all of them.” 

IGAD has dispatched 11 observers to Nairobi, Kajiado, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Kisii, Kisumu, Kakamega, Machakos, Mombasa and Nyeri. 

The team went through a two-day training session, with Dr Teshome saying those dispatched will make an independent, objective and impartial assessment of the elections.

Deployment of the IGAD mission is in line with the authority’s mandate of promoting human rights and adherence to rule of law. 

‘‘The deployment of the team in Kenya is in line with IGAD’s mandate of promoting good governance, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the IGAD region. This is in accordance with the national, regional and international standards for democratic elections,’’ Dr Teshome said.

“It is also guided by relevant continental instruments such as the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, elections and governance as well as the IGAD guideline and code of conduct for election observers,” he said.

The IGAD head of observer mission met East African Community (EAC) Election Observation Mission leader Jakaya Kikwete for consultations with the former Tanzania President.