Institutions’ weakness could fuel violence, think tank says

A think tank affiliated with the United States Department of Defense has warned that the weakness of national and international institutions could fuel election-related violence in Kenya.

“A perception of impunity hangs over the election process,” states an analysis published on Tuesday by the Pentagon’s Africa Centre for Strategic Studies.

Indictments issued by the International Criminal Court prior to the 2013 election “served as a clear warning to all candidates, tempering language that some could consider hate speech”, writes Prof Dorina Bekoe, author of centre’s study.

“In 2017,” she says, “no such international watchdog exists” due to the unravelling of the court’s cases against President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

‘SERIOUS STEPS’

Prof Bekoe acknowledges that “Kenya’s Judiciary has taken a number of serious steps toward reform”. She cites public vetting of judicial appointments, enhanced training and professionalism of Judiciary staff and upgrades of the courts’ information technology systems.

“However,” she says, “claims by the ruling coalition that the Judiciary has not acted independently raises concerns about whether the courts could serve as an avenue to redress electoral grievances.”

The National Super Alliance’s questioning of the political motives of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission also fosters uncertainty over potential reaction to the outcome of next month’s General Election, says Prof Bekoe.

COURT SUCCESSES

She notes that Nasa has succeeded in court challenges to the vote tallying methodology, including through a ruling that enables the opposition coalition to conduct parallel vote tabulation. Prof Bekoe points out that Ghana’s opposition party used this form of tabulation “as a check on the official results at the polling station to document its victory” last December.

At the same time, America’s ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec has said his country would support the outcome of next month’s election if the process were free, fair and credible.

LEADERS’ COMMITMENT

Mr Godec, who was addressing a national youth agribusiness conference hosted by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett in Karen, urged leaders to use the election to confirm their commitment to the rule of law.

He also noted that the US is not affiliated to any party and does not support any of the eight presidential candidates. “No Kenyan should die because of the elections. The youths have an opportunity to speak through their votes,” he said.

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