The former president of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, will lead a team of Commonwealth observers to the 2017 General Elections in Kenya, which take place on the 8 August. Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland constituted the 15-member group at the invitation of Kenya’s Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission. This follows the visit of a pre-election assessment team to the country in March 2017.
The last general elections were held in March 2013 and, once again, voters will be asked to choose the president, National Assembly, Women Members of the Assembly, Senate, County Governors and County Assemblies.
Speaking ahead of the group’s arrival in Kenya, the Commonwealth Secretary-General said, “The Commonwealth Charter recognises ‘the inalienable right of individuals to participate in democratic processes, in particular through free and fair elections in shaping the society in which they live’. In this spirit, we urge all stakeholders in Kenya to commit to ensuring peaceful and transparent elections in which candidates and voters are free from intimidation, and the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly are respected.”
The Secretary-General added, “I am grateful to former President Mahama and the members of this Commonwealth Observer Group for agreeing to undertake this important exercise on behalf of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has had a longstanding and fruitful relationship with Kenya. We stand in solidarity with its people as they exercise their right to choose leaders who will continue to advance the democratic and development gains made following the last elections in 2013, which were the first to be held under the new Constitution. These elections represent another positive step towards consolidating the reform and devolution process”.
Commonwealth observers will assess a number of factors to ensure the credibility of the electoral process as a whole. This includes the pre-electoral environment, the voting process, counting and tabulation procedures, as well as the announcement of results.
The independent group will determine whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards to which Kenya has committed itself. This includes its own election-related legislation as well as relevant regional, Commonwealth and international commitments. Where appropriate, the Group may also make recommendations for the future strengthening of the electoral framework.
Observers will act impartially and will adhere to the standards of the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation, to which the Commonwealth is a signatory.
The Observer Group’s report will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will thereafter send it to the Government of Kenya, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, political parties, and eventually to all Commonwealth governments. It will then be made public.
An advance group of Commonwealth observers arrived in Kenya on 19 July, and will be joined by the remainder of the Group on 31 July. The Group will stay until 14 August 2017, supported by a Commonwealth Secretariat team led by Martin Kasirye, head of the Electoral Support Section.
The full list of Commonwealth observers is:
His Excellency John Dramani Mahama
Former President of the Republic of Ghana
Members: (in alphabetical order of nationality)
Ms Natasha Stott Despoja
Former Ambassador, Senator and Party Leader
Professor Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo
Former Minister of External Relations
Mr Christopher Cobb
Journalist/Electoral Communications Specialist
Ms Pauline Welsh
Director of Legal Affairs, Research and Development
Electoral Commission of Jamaica
Mrs Nana Asantewa Afadzinu
West Africa Civil Society Institute
Professor Aishah Bidin
Law Professor and Human Rights Commissioner
Mr Solomon Akintola Oyateru
Hon Gideon Kayinamura
Ms Angelique Pouponneau
Vice-Chairperson for Inclusion and Engagement
Commonwealth Youth Council;
Mr Vuma Glenton Mashinini
Electoral Commission of South Africa
Ms Elizabeth Lwanga King
Hon Canon Justice James Ogoola
Chairman, The Elders Forum of Uganda
Baroness Sandip Verma
House of Lords
Hon Justice Damian Zefren Lubuva
Former Chairman of the National Electoral Commission
United Republic of Tanzania