Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu Key Note Address during National Elections Conference

 

By George Kegoro-Executive Director, Kenya Human Rights Commission

Released on 13th June 2017

Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu is grateful to the IEBC and the EACC for the partnership that has yielded this conference. Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu is a coalition of civil society organisations that promotes political dialogue as part of the preparations for the elections in August.  The Kenya Human Rights Commission, where I work, serves as the secretariat for Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu.

As the country goes into elections in less than two months, the overriding concern is whether there will be  peace, or elections, like so many in the recent past, will be accompanied by violence . Already, we have had some violence around the country. The party primaries were marked by the death of three candidates as well as by multiple incidents in which polling stations were violently stormed, election materials destroyed and observers assaulted. There were also incidents of police use of excessive against civilians.  Sadly, we have come to treat these isolated incidents of violence as normal, but they are not. Every situation in which violence is expressed for political reasons is completely avoidable, and should lead to most intensified levels of concern on the part of the population and the authorities.

The country is also facing a situation of insecurity in the North Rift Valley, and that situation has gone on since February. There is fear that this violence could become  more generalised  and also that it could impact negatively on how the affected population participates in the elections, and, further, the quality of accountability for the electoral process in that part of the country.  

 A logical result of the fear of political violence is a rise in public campaigns for peace. Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu supports the campaign for peaceful elections. However, successful peace can only occur in the context of capable state institutions.  An electoral commission that invests in technologies that fail on election day and that does not prioritize communication with the public so that the people know exactly what to expect on election day, a police service that does not adequately prepare for the crowd control challenges it knows will arise during elections, and a judiciary whose decisions on contested political issues fail to convince, are all a danger to the peace. Therefore, our desire for peace must translate into a demand for greater capability on the part of the institutions that are going to run the elections.

The desire for peace also demands for greater accountability from our elected leaders. Political leadership forms part of the capabilities we need to overcome the threat of political violence. Evidence from other countries suggests that even where there is clear data about the seriousness of a public problem, citizens look to political leaders before making a decision whether that problem is worth their attention or not. Political polarisation in Kenya systematically undermines the consistency of signals that the country’s leadership sends regarding political violence. If Kenya is to overcome political violence, the attitude of elected leaders along with that leadership’s commitment to sustainable and positive peace, and not just the capability of its institutions, must also be addressed. 

An aspect of political leadership is the different capacities that a country nurtures to address its problems. Kenya overcame its worst political crisis, generated by the  2007 violence, by drawing on a variety of  pillars, including those provided by external friends. In this regard, on behalf of Kenyan civil society, I express gratitude to the friends of Kenya, many of them represented at this conference, whose support Kenya relied on during the crisis and has continued to work with since then. These include the African Union, the European Union and various individual friendly governments, including the United States.  We are encouraged by your continued interest in the stability of this country and, although we hope the role that you played in 2007 will not be needed this time, Kenyan civil society is grateful for your partnership and support.

Regrettably, however, the relationship between Kenyan civil society and the Kenyan government has faced challenges in the recent past, and we are making an appeal to the Kenya government to open channels of communication where those challenges can be discussed.

The IEBC, with which we are partnering in this conference, is emerging from a crisis of confidence that imperilled its mission after the 2013 general election. The country would spend the next four years debating how to address the crisis of confidence, during which there was virtual paralysis in preparations for the elections that are now less than two months away. Precious time was lost and needs to be recovered. Six months ago, ravaged by those controversies, the IEBC could not have convened a high level consultation of this kind. The fact that we are meeting here today, convened by the IEBC, is testament that the elections body is now on a path to recovery. It is also evidence that above all else, political leadership counts. Without the leadership that Parliament eventually provided, it would not have been possible to set the IEBC on the path that it is pursuing today.

While the IEBC is undoubtedly on the right course, a number of concerns related to the remainder of the current electoral cycle must be addressed immediately. This is not to dismiss the concerns that have already been raised over the past year – many of those, including campaign finance, gender rules, legal reform, adherence to integrity provisions, etc remain unresolved and critical. But given where we are in the timeline, we must now turn our focus to imminent concerns. There are many questions about the integrity of the voters register. To its credit, it is the IEBC pointed out some of those problems, which include shared ID numbers, ID numbers that are obviously wrong and deceased voters. Also, there is no clear information on the number of registered voters and how this number has changed since 2013. As this is an important control, this information should be clarified.

Second, credibility issues surround the method through which people get on the voters’ list: domestic observers witnessed an inconsistent and unregulated use of green books, and it is unclear how these will play a role on Election Day. The process through which people get onto the register is also questionable because there is widespread evidence of first-time registrants finding themselves already on the register, and of people who did register previously who are now not on the list at all.

Thirdly, the country needs more information on what technology the IEBC intends to use in the elections, and craves evidence-based assurances that the technology will work, and is accountable. 

Fourthly, the KPMG audit has also brought to light a number of issues, including the myriad problems with the registry of deaths’ data, the 1 million plus deceased voters still in the register today, important irregularities with regard to passport numbers, ID numbers and duplicate registrations. KYSY appreciates KPMG’s honest assessment of the problems with the data on deaths in Kenya, but in order to assess the accuracy and completeness of these findings, it is important to know how complete the other data that KPMG received was, including from the passports and national ID databases. This is yet another reason why the final report must be made public.

While the IEBC has done well to convene us here, the remaining stages in the August elections depend on how the details will be addressed and we pledge our continuing support during the remaining stages of the elections.

 

The Secretariat,

Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu - Coalition

Kenya Human Rights Commission [KHRC]

Opposite Valley Arcade Shopping Center, Gitanga Road

P. O. Box 41079 - 00100, Nairobi

Website: www.khrc.or.ke / www.kurayangusautiyangu.org

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