You’re driving Kenya into a ditch,20 diplomats warn politicians

Monday October 23 2017

DIPLOMATS

US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec and other envoys address a press conference on the repeat presidential election, at Radisson Blue Hotel, Nairobi, on October 23, 2017. Mr Godec said IEBC had made some efforts to ensure a credible election. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By NATION TEAM
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Foreign envoys on Monday sent out a tough warning to politicians, saying they risk driving the country into a ditch.

They asked leaders to resolve their disagreements through the courts, saying solutions to Kenya’s current challenges must be found in its Constitution, not outside it.

“Kenyans — and particularly Kenya’s politicians — should be careful not to destroy things built over years of hard work and sacrifice. 

"It is easier to tear down than to build up. But it is dangerous, and it must stop,” US ambassador Robert Godec, who read a statement on behalf of 20 other envoys at Radisson Blu Hotel, Nairobi, said.

CREDIBLE POLL
The envoys appeared to admit defeat in efforts to broker a deal on the repeat election, saying only Kenyan courts could intervene in a meaningful way.

Attempts to get a solution by meeting Jubilee and Nasa leaders had yielded little, the 20 diplomats said in the statement read by Mr Godec.

They said conditions are not ideal for holding a credible repeat election on Thursday but insisted that only Kenyan institutions can decide whether to postpone it or not.

“We have held talks with leaders from both political sides. I can say we have made some progress and I cannot divulge the details but there are still some big differences,” Mr Godec said.

“While time is now extremely brief, we again urge all parties to engage in serious dialogue with the IEBC and to cease any interference in its operation."

ELECTION LAWS
The diplomats criticised the attempt by Jubilee to unilaterally change election laws, attacks on poll officials by Nasa-allied groups and use of excessive force by police on demonstrators.

At the same time, a conflict prevention organisation, International Crisis Group, asked the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to go back to the Supreme Court and seek a limited extension of timeline by 30-45 days to allow all parties to take part in the election and avert a crisis.

The group said Kenya’s political leaders should support such an extension and commit to participate.

SUPREME COURT

According to ICG, the precedent for such a delay exists.

“The High Court in 2012 delayed elections by six months, which helped ensure a credible and peaceful vote,” the group said in a statement.

“The Supreme Court should favourably consider such an extension, given the IEBC chairman’s own acknowledgement that the commission cannot guarantee a credible vote within the allotted timeline.”

The ICG said that should it grant a delay, the court ought to state clearly that President Kenyatta would remain in office pending the fresh vote and that Nasa leader Raila Odinga should take part in a delayed poll without additional conditions.

“He should renew the welcome public pledge against violence that he made on October 20.

"He also should rein in and hold accountable supporters who have attacked election officials, made inflammatory threats to disrupt election or otherwise broken the Kenyan law,” the group said.

DIALOGUE
The diplomats spoke as both President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, his main challenger in the voided August 8 election and who has pulled out of the repeat poll, maintained their hard line positions.

Mr Kenyatta maintained his position during meetings with journalists working for Kikuyu FM stations and IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, insisting that the election must proceed as ordered by the Supreme Court and that he will sign the amended election laws.

Any form of dialogue between him and Mr Odinga can only take place after Thursday’s election, he said.

The meeting with the journalists was broadcast live simultaneously on all the stations.

“The Constitution has vested all power on the people and it is the people to decide the direction the country will take by voting on Thursday,” he said, adding that neither him nor Mr Odinga can make a decision for 45 million Kenyans.

IEBC
In his meeting with Mr Chebukati, President Kenyatta asked him to ensure the repeat presidential election is held in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and the September 1 Supreme Court ruling.

The President said his administration had provided maximum support to the commission and it expects no less from the chairman in ensuring a credible election that reflects the will of the people.

“We only insist that election be held on October 26, that’s the timeline set by the IEBC in terms of conditions set in the annulment of the August 8 election,” the President said.

In Kisii, where he held a public rally, Mr Odinga told his supporters not to take part in the election.

DAVID MARAGA

He told voters in Nyamira and Kisii counties to boycott what he termed a shambolic election, arguing that it would betray the sacrifices made by their son, Chief Justice David Maraga and their daughter Roselyn Akombe, on credible elections.

“Let us not shame our heroes and heroines Maraga and Akombe who have stood up for justice. Do not participate in the October 26 fresh presidential poll,” Mr Odinga told residents at Kijauri, Keroka, Keumbu and at Gusii stadium.

CJ Maraga, who led the nullification of the August 8 result and Dr Akombe, until last week a commissioner at IEBC before resigning, are from the region.

VIOLENCE
Mr Odinga, accompanied by co-principals Moses Wetang’ula and Musalia Mudavadi, said nothing could convince them to take part in the poll — not even the three-week leave by IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba, who last week temporarily removed himself from the commission over the election period.

In Nairobi, the diplomats once again warned against changes in the laws and said attacks on IEBC staff must stop.

“Inflammatory rhetoric, attacks on institutions and growing insecurity all make holding a credible and fair poll more difficult.

"IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and former commissioner Roselyn Akombe raised serious concerns that deserve attention and require action,” Mr Godec said.

In the absence of a court decision, the ambassadors and high commissioners argued that the Constitution was clear that a fresh election be held within 60 days after an annulment by the Supreme Court.

REFORMS
The statement was signed by ambassadors from France, Denmark, Sweden, United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Australia, Finland, Slovak Republic, Ireland, Czech Republic and Portugal.

Mr Godec said IEBC had made some efforts to ensure a credible election including staff changes and technical processes and urged Nasa candidate Raila Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka to take part in the poll.

The opposition leaders have said their demands have not been met.

Reports by Samuel Owino, Ibrahim Oruko, Joseph Ngunjiri, Ruth Mbula, Henry Nyarora and Elgar Machuka