Pre- and post-election violence is a major concern for Kenyans who say the question is not whether it will happen but where and how much, an influential observer group has said.
The respected American NGO, the National Democratic Institute, said most Kenyans interviewed want state security to closely monitor political activities and incitement before, during and after the August 8 General Election.
An NDI delegation is visiting the country and interviewing residents and stakeholders countrywide. It released its report yesterday.
In July 2015, when US President Barack Obama visited Kenya, the two countries agreed the US would provide electoral assistance.
Memories of the 2007-08 post-election violence are still vivid.
“Numerous stakeholders asserted to the delegation that the question is not whether there will be violence but how much and where,” the international observer delegation said.
The National Democratic Institute, or National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organisation working with partners in development countries to increase the effectiveness of democratic institutions. It was founded in 1983 by former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.
“Electoral-related violence discourages young women, men and other new entrants from engaging in politics. Many noted increased interest in county-level elected positions of governor and assembly member is likely to increase potential for violence at that level,” the report said.
Though significant early-warning platforms are functioning in advance of the poll, anti-violence efforts do not match those mounted in the run-up to the 2013 elections.
The delegation called on parties and candidates to cooperate with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and campaign peacefully, following laws, regulations and codes of conduct.
“Electoral integrity and peaceful elections are inextricably interrelated and extraordinary efforts are needed in both areas Contestants themselves need to provide leadership in rejecting the use of violence by their supporters. State agencies,civil society and religious leaders need to mobilise to prevent killings and other violence on large or small scale,” it says.
Use of public resources to campaign also worries Kenyans, it says, noting that campaigns have started in earnest at national and county levels, it says.
Proper use of public resources and prevention of misuse must be ensured by the police, the Registrar of Political Parties and the IEBC, the delegation said.
Anyone found misusing public resources must be arrested, it said.
Civil servants and state officers must be neutral; they should stop using their positions to campaign for candidates and parties, the NGO says.
“A number of people raised concerns about the misuse of state resources for electoral advantage. In Kenya, as in all countries, there is typically a political advantage to holding elected office for a political party or candidate standing in elections,” it says.
“However, the government and its resources belong to the citizens and should not be expropriated for private gain or the advantage of a particular political party, which is clear in Kenya’s legal framework,” the report says.
Possible internet shutdown around the election time, as happened in Uganda last year, is another concern. The government says it does not contemplate a shutdown but is mandated to provide security. It plans to monitor communications.
Concerns have been raised on social media and broader election-related platforms, it says.
“Protecting and even expanding space for civil society, including NGOs and the media, is essential for the electorate to receive information upon which to develop a free and informed political choice. [It is also necessary] to dispel rumours and counter incitement subverting peaceful elections,” the report says.
On auditing the voter register, undertaken by KPMG, NDI urges the electoral agency push for swift completion and release of results to the public.
“[It] would be best if the provisional registry is made timely available to political parties and citizen election monitors in a machine-readable, easily analysable format. it says.
This would make it easy to offer timely suggestions to improve the registry, the report says.
It calls for broad public education on how, when and where prospective voters can validate their biometric registration and seek necessary corrections in time.
On party primaries starting next week, the report says security agencies, in consultation with parties, should provide safety for all participating citizens.
In case of disputes, the Registrar of Political Parties should ensure political parties understand when to turn for resolution to the IEBC, the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal and the courts.
Given the extraordinary number of disputes anticipated, additional funding and human resources are required, especially for the PPDT, the report says.
Civil society must also “sharpen its efforts” to prepare for monitoring the election, including long-term observation and verification of Election Day processes, the delegation says.
Pushing for electoral transparency, including access to data on key processes, is essential, as is monitoring incitement that can lead to hate speech, the report said.