African Union observers have expressed optimism over the August 8 elections following meetings with the electoral commission and key political players this week.
This came as fresh details of meetings with Jubilee Party’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and the National Super Alliance (Nasa) candidate Raila Odinga emerged.
The opposition told the AU team about an alleged pattern of “militarisation” of electoral process that they warn could trigger violence.
Mr Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka are understood to have told the AU election observer mission headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki and AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki that the ongoing mobilisation, especially in the police force, was reminiscent of the 2007 election whose disputed outcome plunged the country into deadly violence.
Only three days ago, Mr Odinga produced a list of 42 police officers he claimed were being redeployed for “special duties” at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) which has been interpreted to mean tinkering with results to favour President Uhuru Kenyatta who is seeking re-election.
To try and assuage the growing tension, the Chief of the Defence Forces Samson Mwathethe has issued a statement assuring the public that the Kenya Defence Forces remain neutral in the political contest.
With details of the Thursday meeting between Mr Odinga and the AU election observer team increasingly pointing to an opposition going into elections with serious reservations about the body mandated to oversee the watershed polls, the naming of two senior officials in the IEBC secretariat as being complicit in the alleged plot by the ruling party to rig the elections is said to have shocked the visiting delegation.
A source who attended the meeting told the Nation that Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka accused the officials of being regular visitors to the offices of the acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, trips they maintained have got everything to do with the elections.
“Why would they accept summons from Matiang’i whom we know is acting for candidate Uhuru (Mr Kenyatta)? Why can’t the minister publicly go to the commission offices if the dealings are above board?” the source posed.
After expressing their concerns about the integrity of voter register, delays in publishing the register and what they termed unusual deployment of security forces, Mr Mbeki promised to talk to both the CS and the IEBC to diffuse the building tension before the elections.
In a statement on Saturday, the Interior Ministry robustly denied existence of such a scheme, saying their role was solely to guarantee security before, during and after elections.
“That is utter nonsense. Elections are the prerogative of the IEBC. Ask Raila (Mr Odinga) to provide you with photographic evidence of such meetings for people to believe him. He has made similar claims before and failed to prove,” the spokesman Mwenda Njoka said.
Previously Nasa had accused IEBC Chief Executive Ezra Chiloba and Director Voter Registration Immaculate Kassait of frequenting State House last month before the ballot printing tender was awarded to Al Ghurair of Dubai.
At the time Mr Chiloba stated; “Allegations of the visit to State House are baseless, malicious and defamatory.”
Later the same day after meeting the opposition, Mr Mbeki met CS Matiang’i at the same venue, Hotel Inter-Continental, where he is understood to have conveyed fears by the opposition on the handling of election preparations.
In his statement after meeting the team, President Kenyatta accused Nasa of planning to scuttle the polls.
“We have persistently declared that we are ready to accept the will of the people, but the opposition adamantly refuses to submit itself to that commitment.
“The reason is simple. Subversion of the will of Kenyans,” said the President.
Shuttling between Jubilee and Nasa meetings, the engagement of Mr Mbeki and his entourage evokes events following the 2007 elections when AU was actively involved in mediating a truce after a fiercely contested presidential election between Mr Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki that ended in a bloodbath.
President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, the two leading State House contenders, are keen to prosecute their respective cases with the observers in what the Sunday Nation has confirmed is a strategy to “assemble evidence” in case such will be needed to demonstrate “a fair win” or “rigged election”, whichever applies.
Final assessment of the observers will be important in validating the poll outcome. Should the various observer teams find fault with the outcome, the declared winner will struggle to earn credibility in the continent and beyond. Equally, giving it a clean bill of health will be a sigh of relief for whoever is announced the victor.
On Saturday, Mr Mbeki said the IEBC has committed to responding to all complaints raised by political players before the end of the week.
He said IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati had promised to respond to queries raised by Nasa.
Other than the political players, his team has also met Chief Justice David Maraga, Africa diplomatic corps and the media through the Editors Guild.
“We reported to IEBC what had been raised by political players. The IEBC chairman took note and promised to respond by the end of the coming week,” he said.
“IEBC had promised us that they would avail the voters register on their portal today.
On whether IEBC is anticipating the electoral equipment especially the biometric ones not working in some polling stations … then that is a matter that will be discussed with political parties,” he said.
Mr Mbeki noted that all political players were committing to peaceful, free, fair and credible elections.
“President Kenyatta committed to accept the results of the election. While on his part Mr Odinga said they expect free, fair and credible elections and if that happens they are willing to accept the outcome,” he said.
On security preparations, Mr Mbeki said the Interior ministry promised to reach out to all political players and hear their concerns.
“There is no complaint of any kind which should be left unattended. We will engage those making complaints and ensure they get comprehensive answers,” he said.
Other observer missions have issued the red flag regarding the forthcoming election, piling immense pressure on the IEBC to deliver credible polls.
European Union election observers led by Dutch Member of the European Parliament Marietje Schaake pointed out concerns over the state of security.
“It is no secret there are concerns about the possible outbreak of violence. This is not inevitable, and it is clear that this would create a situation where everyone loses.
There is a responsibility for each and everybody to grant each other the right and safety to vote according to his or her conscience but this responsibility grows in proportion to the influence different actors have over the 2017 elections,” she said.
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