Following an invitation from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of Kenya (IEBC), the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr. Kamalesh Sharma, has constituted an Observer Group for the 2013 General Elections. It is my honour and privilege to have been asked to lead the Group, and to be here in the country for these important elections.
I am also pleased to lead a team of sixteen eminent persons drawn from across the Commonwealth, including politicians, members of election management bodies, judiciary, former diplomats, civil society, youth and the media.
The Commonwealth has a long tradition of support for elections in Kenya, including observing the 2007 polls. We are pleased to be in the country as the people of Kenya take this next step in the consolidation of the democratic process and reform process, following the adoption of the new Constitution and the creation of a series of new representative institutions.
For Kenya, the 2013 elections represent a critical moment. It is a moment when the eyes of Africa, the Commonwealth and the world are upon you. As everybody is aware, and nobody more than the people of Kenya, the 2007 elections led to a tragic crisis, resulting in large-scale loss of life, displacement of people, destruction of property and a loss of confidence in the country’s democratic processes and institutions.
It is to Kenya’s credit that in subsequent years some of this confidence has been re-gained, notably with regard to the judiciary and management of the electoral process. These elections are the next step and it is imperative that first and foremost political contestants engage in all phases of the process in a responsible manner, abiding by the Code of Conduct they have signed and ensuring a peaceful election that Kenya can be proud of. Media also has a responsibility in this
regard to ensure that its coverage is balanced and measured and does not incite any unrest. We are encouraged by reports that the election campaign has been largely peaceful so far. We are also encouraged by the engagement of presidential candidates in the debates and in the recent peace rally and hope this helps set a positive tone for the next phase of the process.
Critically, we also very much hope the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) can manage the process in a credible and transparent manner, thereby ensuring that Kenyan voters have the opportunity to express their will and electoral stakeholders maintain confidence in the process. Of particular note is the need for the IEBC to ensure the timely opening of the polls, the effective management of the more complex voting process and the efficient and transparent management of the results process. We have already met with the Chair of the IEBC and he assures us they are ready for the tasks that lie ahead and we will closely follow all aspects of the process.
Our task as the Commonwealth Observer Group is to consider all the factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole, and assess whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Kenya has committed itself, with reference to its own election-related legislation as well as relevant regional, Commonwealth and other international commitments. In conducting our duties and undertaking our assessment, we will be impartial, objective and independent. We are here in our individual capacities as eminent Commonwealth citizens. The assessment by the Group will be its own, and not that of any member government.
In the pre-election period we will meet a wide range of stakeholders, including the IEBC, representatives of political parties, civil society and media, as well as High Commissions and representatives of other international and national observer groups. Prior to polling day, Commonwealth teams will deploy to a variety of locations around the country to observe the voting, counting and results processes. Our teams will coordinate with other observers in the field in order to maximise our overview of the process. We will issue an Interim Statement after the election and a final report at a later stage.
I wish the people of Kenya well and I also wish to pledge the unwavering solidarity of the Commonwealth as you go into these elections.
Nairobi, Thursday 28 February 2013