All eyes on IEBC as envoys demand free and fair elections

Interior CS Fred Matiangi with his ICT Counterpart Joe Mucheru and Foreign Affairs PS Kamau Macharia during a meeting with envoys, February 14, 2022. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Envoys from the international community have put top government officials on the spot over claims of rigging ahead of the August polls and are now putting pressure on the government to ensure a free, fair and credible general election.

In a meeting held at the Serena hotel in Nairobi, the envoys, who included a representative from the World Bank, engaged top government officials - led by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i - on the country’s preparedness to hold credible polls and ensure a smooth transition of power. They also sought regular meetings during which they will be briefed about the developments towards a peaceful election and transition.

The meeting came after claims and counter-claims made by politicians over planned election manipulation. One of the politicians accused of making such claims is Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege while addressing a gathering in Vihiga. Her sentiments provoked a rejoinder from Deputy President William Ruto, one of the hopefuls seeking to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

And then on Sunday, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi sensationally claimed that he and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula and One Kenya Alliance principals had been asked to join hands with some leaders to take part in election manipulation that would guarantee them an arranged victory.

“Someone in the government stated that they had the capacity to create a backroom IEBC if we can be together,” Mudavadi told a rally in Kabarnet, Baringo County.

His claims came just days after Chege alleged during an Azimio la Umoja Movement rally that the 2017 polls were manipulated and the same could happen again in August.

“So if we managed, even this one we can,” she was quoted as saying. She later denied the claim, saying she only urged wananchi to register in large numbers.

Chege was summoned by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and will appear today before its Code of Conduct Enforcement Committee over allegations that she violated clauses 6(a) and 6(I) of the Electoral Code of Conduct.

Murang'a Woman Rep Sabina Chege. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Concerned over the recent accusations and counter-accusations, envoys and other representatives of the international community yesterday agreed with top government officials that they would hold regular briefings on election preparedness. They also sought government assurance that there will be free and fair polls.

Envoys from the UK, France, Japan, Finland, Sweden and South Korea, representatives of the United Nations agencies and the World Bank said there was need for the government to ensure a smooth transition when Uhuru’s final term ends.

The envoys, led by the United Kingdom High Commissioner Jane Marriot, asked the government to begin putting in place plans for a smooth and peaceful transition of power.

Marriott also sought assurances that key foreign investments will not be negatively affected by election-related activities.

“Can we get assurance of the election, plans to ensure it is peaceful and that the credibility of the election will bring harmony in the country,” she said.

The French Ambassador to Kenya, Aline Kuster-Menager, insisted on the regular briefings, reinforced development partners confidence in the country and asked the government to avoid pitfalls that have in the past affected the credibility of election results.

“It is important for us partners as a group to interact very closely during this election times. It will help us better understand how the government is organising itself to achieve its results and bring continuity to our processes,” she said.

In January, UDA, the party expected to have Ruto as its presidential candidate, wrote a letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta, the International Criminal Court and some envoys from the West over what it claimed were incidents of political violence in the electioneering period.

The letter signed by party Secretary-General Veronica Maina and Chairperson Johnson Muthama alleged State-sponsored violence on UDA campaigns, citing six cases in Busia, Kisii, Taita Taveta, Murang’a and Kisumu, which were disrupted by youths with little intervention by the government. Matiang’i assured the envoys that there were elaborate plans in place to ensure the relevant instruments of power will be handed over peacefully to whoever will form the next government.

United Democratic Alliance Secretary-General Veronica Maina. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Other government officials who attended the talks were Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, CSs Ukur Yatani (National Treasury), Keriako Tobiko (Enviroment) and Joseph Mucheru (ICT) as well as Deputy Inspector General (APs) Noor Gabow.

Matiang’i said enough security agencies will be mobilised to provide adequate support to the electoral commission.

“We have given assurance to our partners that, as a country, we are ready to proceed and facilitate IEBC to conduct the elections,” he said.

In a tweet after the meeting, Matiang’i said the security sector had assured the development partners that they will do their part in ensuring the country is peaceful, stable and ready for the transition of power to a new administration.

He stressed that collaboration under the national multi-sectoral consultative forum chaired by the Chief Justice was essential in aligning critical stakeholders to deliver a credible poll.

He also allayed fears that the forum was usurping the role of the electoral commission.

“Whether the country will have free and fair elections is a question that only Mr. Chebukati and the IEBC can answer. We are clear that is the mandate of the IEBC. Ours is to provide whatever support IEBC requires to get it done,” the CS said in a press statement issued by both the government officials and the envoys.