Race on for Uhuru, Raila as poll date closes in

With just 18 days to the fresh presidential election, frantic efforts are being made to ensure that the two main antagonists – President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party and Mr Raila Odinga of National Super Alliance – drop their hardline stands.

Those reaching out to the two and their advisers believe that if both sides adopt a more open minded approach, this will set the stage for a smooth election, crucial to avoid a political and constitutional crisis.

On the one hand, President Kenya and Jubilee are under pressure to drop their plans to change the election law so close to the repeat poll.

STABILITY

On the other, Mr Odinga and his supporters have been asked to suspend the weekly demonstrations, some of which have been marred by violence.

The United Nations, the European Union, representatives of key foreign countries and religious leaders are all worried that even as the clock ticks towards October 26 – the date set by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission – there is no let up in the political grand-standing that they fear threatens the stability of the country and the credibility of the repeat election.

On the diplomatic front, the Saturday Nation has established that the political allies, personal friends and business associates and relatives of the President and Mr Odinga are now targeted in a new move to get the two to drop their hardline positions on the election.

DIPLOMATS
Sources in Kampala have said President Yoweri Museveni has dispatched an envoy who met the two leaders earlier in this week, even though the details of the meeting remain scanty, because such engagements are conducted outside the normal diplomatic channels and in confidence.

“I can say without fear of contradiction that Mr Museveni was approached and he dispatched an envoy who separately met the two leaders in Nairobi,” the Kampala-based diplomat told said Friday.

At the same time, the European Union issued a terse statement, saying it was following developments in Kenya closely.

VIOLENCE

It warned that with only a few days remaining before the October 26 poll, actions and declarations against the IEBC could have an “adverse effect on its ability to fulfil its constitutional mandate”.

“Unreasonable demands, threats of boycott or attempts to change electoral regulations are to be avoided,” the statement said.

The US also weighed in, saying it is “deeply concerned by the deterioration in the political environment in Kenya”.

In a statement, the State Department said: “In recent weeks, actors on all sides have undermined the electoral commission and stoked tensions.

“We are closely monitoring Kenya’s electoral process and what politicians are saying and doing.”

LAWS
The statement said the US supports IEBC’s efforts to engage leaders and parties in dialogue and urged all to participate “openly, seriously and in good faith”.

“Changing electoral laws without broad agreement just prior to a poll is not consistent with international best practice, increases political tension, and undermines public perceptions of the integrity of the electoral process,” the statement warned.

Religious leaders and some civil society groups have also been reaching out to both President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga to try to convince them to de-escalate the growing tension.

The group, under the auspices of Interreligious Council of Kenya (ICK), has been tasked to take seek out the two leaders after the realisation that the war of words between the sides of the political divide could escalate into a full-blown political crisis.

DIALOGUE
On Friday, ICK’s executive director Francis Kuria confirmed the meetings are ongoing and hopeful that the challenges confronting the commission, and the nation, can be resolved before the poll.

“We are trying our level best so that as a nation we don’t cross the constitutional limit as a way of ensuring that the electoral commission conducts free, fair and credible elections in line with the Supreme Court order,” he said.

Among other things, the group is working to ensure that IEBC delivers a credible poll by focusing on the issues the Supreme Court raised in its judgment, in the hope that similar mistakes will not be repeated.

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