We’ll punish inciters to violence, envoys warn

Western powers on Monday warned that the political situation in Kenya had deteriorated and told leaders to stop incitement to violence and attacks on independent institutions.

Ambassadors and high commissioners from 14 influential countries threatened sanctions, including travel bans, on political hardliners who incite violence and asked political leaders to support the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission so that it can conduct free and fair presidential election on October 26.

The envoys advised against changing electoral laws, as Jubilee is trying to do, saying the timing was wrong for those kinds of reforms with an election only weeks away and the political environment charged.

IEBC
Removal of IEBC staff could only be done by the proper authorities and in accordance with the law, the envoys said, adding that the sacking of key officials was likely to cripple the commission and render it incapable of conducting the election.

“The growing political demands, inflammatory rhetoric, and boycott threats undermine the IEBC’s ability to carry out its constitutionally-mandated job to hold a new election,” the envoys said in a statement read by US ambassador Robert Godec.

“For example, if IEBC personnel are to be removed, it should only be done by the appropriate authorities and be consistent with the law and relevant regulations,” they said. 

SUPREME COURT
Leaders must not paralyse the IEBC while at the same time speaking out in support of the Judiciary, which has come under heavy criticism from Jubilee leaders.

Jubilee has been harshly critical of the Supreme Court, which it accuses of usurping the sovereign will of the people by overturning a “valid election”.

On the other hand, Nasa has called for demonstrations on Mondays and Fridays to force out some of the IEBC staff whom it accuses of bungling the August 8 election.

PROTESTS
Nasa went ahead with its demonstrations in Nairobi, Mombasa, Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori, Kakamega, Vihiga and Busia counties.

In Siaya, a man police claimed was sick and had gone to buy medicine, died after he was caught up in the protests.

Protesters were running away from the police, who had used tear-gassed against them.

DIALOGUE

The election was nullified by the Supreme Court last month over “systemic failures”.

“It is international best practice not to make changes to electoral laws without a broad political agreement.

“If everyone were to agree on changes that needed to be made, that would be fine but at the moment, we would encourage everyone to look at international best practice and work together to make the election free, fair and credible,” Mr Godec said.

The envoys spoke after a meeting with the IEBC leadership headed by chairman Wafula Chebukati and commissioners Consolata Maina, Roselyn Akombe and Paul Kurgat.

ELECTORAL LAWS

They urged leaders to stop politics of brinkmanship around the electoral commission as they were undermining the agency’s preparations for the repeat presidential election.

They said while it was time for both sides to show leadership, strengthen Kenya’s democracy and build the country’s international prestige, the opposite was being done by the political leaders.

“The Election Laws Amendment Bill, for example, puts at risk the IEBC’s ability to conduct a better election within the mandated 60-day timeline, and unnecessarily increases political tensions.

“Wise reforms to an established electoral process take time. They require thoughtful reflection and broad agreement from all parties. 

“Well-established international best practice is to avoid changes to electoral rules just prior to an election,” they said. 

LAWMAKERS

The bill in Parliament, which led to the collapse of talks between Jubilee, Nasa and the IEBC at Bomas on Thursday last week, has been sponsored by President Kenyatta’s party.

However, President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were adamant on Monday that the bills will be debated in Parliament and passed into law before the election.

“For those legislators who are here, continue with the work and expedite the process so that we can have elections where no one will doubt who the winner is,” the President told a delegation of women leaders from different parts of the country at State House Nairobi.

He added that no one would be allowed to stifle Kenyans’ right to express their will through the ballot box, saying protests will not stop the October 26 election.

“There is nothing wrong with members of Parliament changing the electoral laws so as to ensure that there is no room for any individual or institution to overturn the supreme will of the people,” he said.

CHILOBA
Mr Chebukati said last week that the institution does not see the need for changes to the electoral laws ahead of October 26.

Nasa has since the nullification of the August 8 presidential election been on a crusade against the IEBC and has singled out members of staff led by chief executive Ezra Chiloba, whom they say must be sacked before the fresh polls.

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