This year’s Kenyan General Election is attracting serious international attention. This week, the African Union Commission sent a high-powered delegation to Nairobi led by its chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat to determine the country’s preparedness. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has been appointed head of the African Union Election Observation Mission to Kenya. For its part, the United States has designated former Secretary of State John Kerry to lead its mission for the same purpose in Nairobi, while the European Union has sent a strong team.
The concern of the international community is Kenya’s vulnerability to violence. A few weeks ago, the EU mission raised the alarm that the tension building in the country was sending ominous signals.
Kenya holds a special place in regional political, economic and social stability. Instability in Kenya has serious ramifications in the region. Kenya has an enormous obligation to conduct a free, fair and credible election. And this responsibility rests on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. To this extent, the concern is the IEBC’s level of preparedness. On paper, the commission postulates that it is adequately prepared and on course to deliver a credible election. But we know that it had been destabilised by a series of court cases, the latest was over the printing of presidential ballots, which the Court of Appeal has since overturned.
Even outside the courts, the electoral agency has been under scrutiny over the sanctity of the voter register, deployment of returning officers, efficacy of its technology and slow start of public education, among others.
On a wider scheme, there is also focus on the preparedness of other institutions like the National Police Service, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the Judiciary to deal with insecurity and poll related challenges. Even more critical is the political players and how they organised their campaigns.
The country is at a critical stage and all efforts must be made to ensure peace and stability. The IEBC has the onerous challenge of administering a credible election, but political players also have the compunction to conduct themselves with restraint and avoid inflaming passion and violence. And security agencies must be on alert.