Foreign envoys urge Kenyans to shun violence ahead of fresh presidential polls

NAIROBI – Twelve foreign envoys from Western countries on Thursday called on Kenyans to shun violence ahead of fresh presidential elections to be held on Oct. 17.

The envoys from countries including Britain, the United States and Germany, in a joint statement, stressed on the need for Kenyans to be allowed to express their will freely including through peaceful protests and urged the police to avoid using excessive force while protecting lives and property.

“Electoral violence remains a serious problem for Kenya and we again call on all leaders and citizens to reject it utterly. We are deeply troubled by the murder of Chris Msando and by the deaths and injuries we have seen in recent weeks,” said the envoys.

The late Msando who was found murdered on July 29 was a key official at Kenya’s electoral commission.

He was one of a handful of officials who had the electoral commission’s computer system passwords and knew the exact location of the servers to run the election.

The foreign envoys said Kenyans have a right to peaceful protest, noting that no one should use or call for violence.

“We strongly urge the security services to avoid using excessive force and to protect lives and property. The police and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) should investigate crimes and reports of misconduct and those responsible for abuses must be prosecuted,” they said.

Both local and international human rights groups have accused police of using excessive force that led to the loss of lives during demonstrations by opposition supporters after President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of Aug. 8 elections.

The opposition said more than 100 of its supporters were killed between Aug. 11 and 13 while state-run human rights body put the death toll at 24. However, the police have dismissed the number, saying only six were killed.

According to the envoys, if the right of all Kenyans to free, fair, and credible elections is to be realized, Kenya’s democratic institutions must do their job well and Kenyans should defend and give them due regard.

“This means supporting an independent Supreme Court and judiciary; all should respect justices doing their constitutionally-mandated work. Civil society should be permitted to perform its critical role without harassment,” said the envoys.

The diplomats said the media, whether traditional or new, also has an essential role to play in informing the public and in acting, along with civil society, as a watchdog.

“It should be allowed to do so without impediment, and it should do so without inciting hate. Most importantly, citizens should return to the ballot box to make their choice,” said the envoys.

The diplomats said Friday’s apex court’s decision to annul the election of President Kenyatta was a strong call to everyone, including the international community, to reflect on how to make each election better than the previous one.

The envoys also cautioned Kenyans that the coming presidential election also faces risks from fake news despite a promise by the government to curb its spread.

They said while fake news is a global phenomenon, “its impact here in Kenya is increasingly prominent and negative.”

“Some of our Missions — and some of us individually — have been the subject of fake stories and false attacks in this election period. We strongly reject these attempts to distort our work and our commitment to democracy,” said the envoys.

They dismissed reports of endorsing a particular candidate in the Kenyan elections, reiterating that their electoral assistance was requested by the government and conformed at all times with Kenyan law.

“At no time did we endorse or prefer any candidate or party. We never asked any candidate to concede. Instead, we encouraged candidates with complaints to go to the courts in accordance with Kenya’s Constitution, and we publicly welcomed their decision to do so,” the diplomats.

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