Kenya Elections Re-Run Due for 17 October 2017 and Related Risks
5 Sep 2017
Kenya’s Electoral Commission (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission or IEBC) have announced that the re-run of the country’s election will take place on 17 October 2017. The Supreme Court in Kenya declared the vote in August, in which incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was victorious, illegitimate, citing validity issues. Kenya’s Chief Justice declared that the election commission had committed “irregularities and illegalities” as results from polling stations were transferred to the national tally centre. However, the Supreme Court has yet to fully explain the rationale behind this decision.
- Kenya will hold a re-run of its presidential elections on 17 October 2017.
- The country’s Supreme Court annulled the results of the August vote of this year citing irregularities, despite international observers praising the validity of the vote.
- There are fears this decision will lead to violent unrest; at least 28 died when violent protests erupted after the August vote.
Political: Kenya’s Electoral Commission (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission or IEBC) have announced that the re-run of the country’s election will take place on 17 October 2017. The Supreme Court in Kenya declared the vote in August, in which incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was victorious, illegitimate, citing validity issues. Kenya’s Chief Justice declared that the election commission had committed “irregularities and illegalities” as results from polling stations were transferred to the national tally centre. However, the Supreme Court has yet to fully explain the rationale behind this decision. The second-place candidate in the August 2017, Raila Odinga elections, will feel vindicated by the Supreme Court’s decision, as he vehemently protested against the vote in the immediate aftermath of the election.
solace global comment
The decision by the Supreme Court is a surprise, especially given the August election’s assessment by international observers. The EU observer mission noted in their preliminary report that despite the deeply polarised political atmosphere in Kenya, the elections were free and fair; a view shared by the African Union and the Carter Centre. The EU mission claimed that the legal framework was generally in line with international election standards. Voting and counting was assessed to be well conducted and transparent, with no signs of central or local manipulation. Campaigning was generally able to occur freely, including in opposition strongholds. The EU mission did highlight problems including a lack of trust in the election not overcome by new voting technology (such as electronic voting machines), issues of campaign financing, the widespread dissemination of fake news, both major political entities claiming bias in official institutions, and most notably, the EU mission criticised the lack of time Kenya’s election commission had to prepare for the August vote. This final point is perhaps the most important. If the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission did not have enough time to fulfil the duties and overcome their deficiencies before the August election, how will they be able to do so in just over a month’s time? It seems unlikely they will be able to regain public confidence lost mostly due to the criticisms made by Odinga and his supporters. International observers have also lost prestige, with the Kenyan public now believing they were mistaken in their assessments of the August vote and perhaps biased; seeking to maintain stability and a pro-western leadership in a vital nation for western companies in Africa.
The Supreme Court’s decision to annul the vote was also a surprise given the vast chasm in vote tally. President Kenyatta won by over 1.4million votes, 54.17 per cent to Odinga’s 44.94 per cent. The court’s ruling stated that only Kenyatta and his primary opponent, Raila Odinga (who brought the challenge to the Supreme Court), will be eligible to stand in the October vote, is sure to bring challenges from other presidential candidates, with at least one threatening legal action. The decision by Kenya’s Supreme Court marks the first time that an African court has nullified the re-election of a sitting leader, with some activists praising the court for upholding Kenya’s democratic values.
Many in Kenya will fear a surge in violent and deadly unrest, feeling that they had overcome the potential for this after the end of the August election period. While not on the same scale as the 2007 vote, at least 28 people were killed in clashes between rival groups and authorities after the now annulled elections. These deaths predominantly occurred in Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold, and the capital Nairobi. There remains the distinct possibility for further unrest in the lead up to and after the elections, especially in ethnically-mixed areas and in the aforementioned cities. Odinga has already claimed that he will not take part in the election without ‘legal and constitutional guarantees’. This is obviously a vague statement and his attitude has the potential to heighten tensions in the country, especially if he does not accept the results of the re-run elections.
Travellers should expect an increased security presence, including the reinstatement of security officials deployed in the immediate aftermath of the August vote. Security forces have been accused of using heavy-handed tactics to disperse protestors (including the use of live ammunition) and this may occur again during the new election period. Travellers are strongly advised to avoid all pre- and post-election public gatherings as they have the potential to turn violent or deadly, with little prior warning. Slum areas in major cities, or those with mixed ethnicity demographics, are most at risk for unrest. The potential for violence may lead to the closure of some services in Nairobi, Kisumu, and other major urban areas.
Despite the election being in the forefront of many peopleâs minds, travellers are reminded of the high level of violent crime in Kenya as well as the threat of Al Shabab terror group, which are particularly active near the Somali border.
Travellers are advised to make preparations for unrest which may occur. Travellers should have an evacuation plan in place or a secure compound prepared in case violence becomes widespread and deadly.
Travellers to Kenya are advised to employ the minimum of a security driver and airport meet and greet during this period. The level of security provision may need to be enhanced dependent on the area of travel. Travellers are also advised to use travel-tracking technology with an intelligence feed. This should enable a traveller to be alerted of any security updates within their vicinity, and to update others of their movements in case of an emergency.
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