EU Parliament raised key issues on Kenyan polls

By The Star

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On Tuesday night, Members of European Parliament debated the EU Observer Mission report on Kenya’s 2017 elections.

The MEPs discussed the political situation in the country noted that sharp divisions following last year’s elections still persist and the country remains divided. This is the situation that remains.

In fact, releasing the final report Marietje Schaake, the EU EOM Kenya 2017 chief observer, at a press conference in Brussels said, “The general election and later fresh presidential election brought many disappointments and confrontations”.

She urged Kenyan leaders and international partners to prioritise issues such as stronger rule of law, separation of powers, respect for independent institutions and the rights and freedoms of Kenyan people.

While I have in the past written, questioning the ability and commitment of international election observer missions in ensuring free and fair elections and strengthening democracy in Africa, Schaake report raises important issues that need to be fixed ahead of the 2022 election, which is already being discussed.

Key among them are respect for the rule of law, independent institutions — the IEBC and Judiciary — and human rights.

It is an open secret that soon after the unprecedented nullification of the August 8 presidential election, President Uhuru Kenyatta referred to the Supreme Court justices as wakoras and promised to “revisit” the determination. He was joined by other Jubilee politicians, among them Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who happens to be an officer of the law. As former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said in a past article published in this paper, the Judiciary continues to endure vicious attacks on its independence whenever elections take place: It is the punching bag, just as the electoral commission. This has to stop if decisions as the Maraga’s on September 1 are to be made based on evidence presented in court.

Second is respect for the rule of law and human rights. Some of us raised concerns over the conduct of the police as early as during Cord’s anti-IEBC demos, in which may opposition supporters were clobbered and dozens shot dead by officers. I have always argued that the role of the police is to maintain law and order, protect lives and property. They can’t do that by committing the very crimes they are supposed to prevent.

And the attitude we saw during anti-IEBC demos were repeated and intensified after the August 8 election and during and after the repeat presidential election. According to a joint report by the Amnesty International, police killed at least 33 people, possibly as many as 50, and injured hundreds more in some parts of Nairobi in response to protests following the August 8 election. Many others were killed during and after the repeat polls. This came up in the MEPs debate, and a United Nations agency had earlier discontinued Sh800 million financial support to the Kenya Police over brutality during the election. The funds are channeled to the police reform basket through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and other aid agencies of US, UK, Norway, Netherlands, Britain and Germany.

Regardless of the political affiliation, these are issues Kenyans must address if we are  to move on as a nation.