Observers under fire for ‘rubber stamping’ Kenya vote



Accused of glossing over flaws in Kenya’s election which later caused the result to be overturned, international observers are under a harsh spotlight ahead of a re-run in October, AFP reports:

The August 8 poll, which saw President Uhuru Kenyatta re-elected, was annulled by Kenya’s Supreme Court earlier this month on grounds of “irregularities and illegalities”, notably in the transmission of election results. The shock decision put foreign observers in a particularly difficult position, accused by Kenya’s opposition and many media outlets of being too quick to declare the elections were “free and fair” in a preference for the status quo over democracy.

But observers themselves – and some analysts – told AFP this characterisation was unfair, saying enthusiastic praise for part of the electoral process was mistaken for endorsement of the whole….Alongside the praise, some listed irregularities, while others condemned the use of public funds for party campaigns or flagged a lack of transparency in the electronic voter system.

“Few of those statements could be read as ringing endorsements of the polls, while most highlighted significant flaws,” said the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank in a report. Yet, “the impression created, by the statements themselves and by observers’ other pronouncements, was that results were accurate, and it was time to move on.”

To explain this, analysts pointed to an “overly approving” tone from observers, who by their own admission were seeking to “encourage” the electoral process, AFP adds.

“At that point, what we were worried about was more the possibility for violence,” said Sarah Johnson, an associate director in the Carter Centre’s democracy program. Nic Cheeseman, professor of African politics at the University of Birmingham, said the legacy of 2007 when over 1,100 people died in post-election violence put observers in a difficult position.

Popular support for the rule of law is one of Kenya’s strengths as it confronts an electoral crisis in the wake of the annulled presidential contest of August 8, Afrobarometer survey findings suggest:

Based on a national survey conducted last October, more Kenyans trust the courts than the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, and fully three-quarters of citizens expect the president to obey the courts even if he thinks they’re wrong. Public perceptions of the country’s democracy were on an upward swing ahead of the August presidential election, which has been challenged by the opposition and annulled by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Liberian media has been urged to promote and self-regulate adherence to the media code of conduct during this election process. “Report only verified information, discourage inciteful language and dispel rumors,” said members of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) pre-election assessment delegation:

The group also admonished the local media to clearly distinguish between articles written by journalists, editorials, and materials that are produced by outside sources and published for a fee. The delegation headed by Ambassador Johnnie Carson (right), Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and Member of Board of Directors, NDI (United States ) acknowledged that the October 10 elections mark an historic milestone for the country and that it promises to be the first peaceful, democratic transfer of power from one elected president to another.

The Future of Democracy and Governance in Liberia

Subcommittee Hearing

09.13.2017 2:00pm 2172 Rayburn, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.


Panel I

The Honorable Donald Yamamoto Acting Assistant Secretary Bureau of African Affairs U.S. Department of State

Ms. Cheryl Anderson Acting Assistant Administrator Bureau for Africa U.S. Agency for International Development

Panel II

Mr. Dave Peterson Senior Director Africa Programs
 National Endowment for Democracy

Ms. Aurelia Curtis Founder and Executive Director Weeks Educational and Social Advocacy Project

Mr. Rushdi Nackerdien  Regional Director for Africa  International Foundation for Electoral Systems

Christopher Fomunyoh, Ph.D. Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa National Democratic Institute


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