EU deploys observers ahead of August polls

The European Union is promising to remain neutral in Kenya’s General Election even as it sends a team of observers to check the credibility of the polls.

On Tuesday, the European body deployed its team of longterm election observers to Kenya with a promise to stick to the given electoral code of conduct and international law.

Hannah Roberts, the EU Observation Mission Deputy Chief Observer told reporters in Nairobi that the EU was sending 30 officials around the country to check on election preparedness as well as how campaigns are conducted.

“They will be following the campaigning and meeting election officials and stakeholders up to and beyond election day. They are expected to file a report of their observation to a team of experts in Nairobi,” she said at an event to flag off the officials at the Radisson Blu.

INTERFERE

The Mission will be bound by a code of conduct, which requires them to be neutral and not to interfere. The Observers will work in accordance with the Declaration of Principles of International Election Observation.

The EU announced early this month the appointment of Dutch politician and member of European Parliament, Ms Marietje Schaake to head the Observation Mission. This will be the fourth time the EU will be sending observers for Kenyan elections.

The Mission, from the EU, Norway and Switzerland, has been split into two groups; longterm and short term teams. The first team is composed of 30 officials, split into 15 pairs of officials scattered around the country to 13 locations.

According to Ms Roberts, the Mission will be assessing the electoral process, the laws governing campaigns and elections, voters’ register, nomination of candidates by parties, freedom of expression and assembly, media conduct, counting and relaying of results.

COMPLAINTS

This group will stay around after elections to observe “the complaints and petitions.”

Ahead of elections, the EU joined other Western countries to call for a well-run, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections, and urged all contenders to refrain from any actions or statements that may incite violence.

The EU observation group leader is expected in the country on Thursday where she will meet electoral officials, candidates and other stakeholders before briefing the media.

The EU will also send 32 more observers and seven Members of the European Parliament and representatives of EU diplomatic missions in Nairobi, as a short-term team of election observers.

TRADITION

As is tradition, the European body sends observers at election time after which they compile a report on whether it was free and fair or whether there were irregularities.

The EU body says this missions have helped Kenya to learn from mistakes and build on its political “dialogue.”

The EU is among the main donors to a project led by the UNDP for “strengthening electoral processes in Kenya.” It is worth $24 million (Sh27.7 billion) coming from the UK, US and the EU, the programme involves training and support for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and other government departments involved in securing elections, as well as supporting women to contest.

The EU has contributed €5 million (Sh577 million] and the programme will last until end of 2018.

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