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Why Nasa is wary of election observers

Monday September 18 2017

John Kerry, co-leader of Carter Center

John Kerry, co-leader of Carter Center’s election observation mission in Kenya, speaks during a press conference at Radisson Blu Hotel, Nairobi, on August 10, 2017. Election observers are tasked to independently monitor and assess the conduct of polls. PHOTO | EMMA NZIOKA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The happenings before, during and after the August 8 General Election opened a new chapter on the role of international poll observer missions in Kenya.

Teams including from the African Union, European Union, the Commonwealth and the United States-based Carter Center declared the August 8 polls as free, fair and credible.

But nearly a month later, the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice David Maraga, nullified the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta following a petition by Nasa coalition.

The same court, though differently constituted, had upheld his 2013 poll victory.

Election observers are tasked to independently monitor and assess the conduct of polls.

The court ruling, therefore, left high-profile observers — including former US Secretary of State John Kerry and former Presidents Thabo Mbeki (South Africa) and John Mahama (Ghana) — with egg on their faces.


For instance, Kerry was quoted in court as having endorsed the elections as “free, fair and credible”.

The teeming lot of observers endorsed a deeply flawed election that was fraudulent and not verifiable or reflective of the will of the people.

Now the stint of that group of former leaders as observers goes into the annals of history as, arguably, the worst by international missions in recent times.

This calls for ways and means through which observer missions assess elections.

If the election is digital, then the observers cannot use analog approaches to test its veracity.

They, too, must go digital or simply fail miserably.

The perceived partisan statements from international observers concern elected leaders in the opposition ranks.

The level of involvement of Kerry and Carter Center, in particular, in rubber-stamping a fraudulent election in favour of Jubilee Party is worrying.

Kerry even uttered words that urged Kenyans not to picket, a right that is enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution.

What was peculiar is how the observers were quick to dismiss charges of irregularity.


Ordinarily, we would expect them to remain neutral, advise the public with informed, credible information and voice concerns where the rights of the people are infringed — like the police killings through use of excessive force before, during and after the elections.

Opposition leaders were alarmed that innocent, peaceful picketing Kenyans were greeted with brute force and shot dead in Kisumu, Mathare, Lucky Summer, Kariobangi, Siaya and elsewhere.

Dozens more were injured. Fatalities included six-month-old baby Pendo and Moraa Nyarangi, 11.

Amid all this, the observers remained peculiarly silent and pressured Nasa leaders to concede.

The opposition ranks feel the international observers failed to act with goodwill and good faith and are concerned that they might not be neutral in the fresh elections slated for October 17, even after top diplomatic missions said they had no preferred candidate.

The general feeling within Nasa is that Kerry, and particularly Carter Center, and the AU are not welcome if they will second the same officials to monitor the repeat election.

Past American ambassadors to Kenya — such as Smith Hempstone, Aurelia Brazeal, Johnny Carson and Michael Ranneberger — were steadfast in supporting democracy, good governance and free, fair credible and accountable elections.

In the same measure were United Kingdom’s Edward Clay, Kieran Prendergast and Christian Turner, among others.

We cannot expect anything less from current envoys Robert Godec of the US and Nic Hailey of the UK.

Mr Atandi is the MP for Alego-Usonga, Siaya County.