Speech: Preliminary findings of EU EOM Kenya

Press conference
Marietje

Please find below Marietje Schaake's speech for the press conference which took place on 10 August at 11:45 local time in Nairobi, where she presented the preliminary findings of the EU Election Observation Mission.


Press coverage and links to documents: 


SPEECH *Check against delivery*  

Nairobi, August 10th, 2017, 11:45 local time  

Good morning distinguished guests, Ambassadors, HC’s/UN, members of the press, Ladies and Gentlemen,  

The EU Election Observation Mission is here at the invitation of the IEBC, and (most importantly) at the service of the Kenyan people. The following covers a few points from the preliminary statement of our mission’s findings and my observations; while we are mindful that the electoral process is still ongoing.  

Let me begin by giving a major compliment to all those Kenyans, young and old, rich and poor, male and female, who eagerly and patiently cast their votes on August 8th. The endless lines of people, standing queuing to enjoy their democratic right, has moved many of us last Tuesday.  

This dedication and participation are the strongest possible testimony of a strong desire to be a part of shaping Kenya’s future. I hope the leaders you elect will appreciate the weight of the mandate you gave them: to serve the public.  

These elections required efforts by so many: from the IEBC that worked around the clock to organize and deliver, to civil society monitoring diligently, or the eminent religious leaders facilitating the building of peace, and the prevention of conflict >> step by step, prayer by prayer. Kenyans seem determined to overcome scars from the past, and to shape a more common and democratic future.  

This democratic spirit, and respect for the rule of law, should continue as the forms reflecting the votes cast, continue to come in. Soon, all the names of those who win, and of those who will be disappointed, will be known. It is a sign of leadership and public service too, to be able to congratulate your opponent with grace, as a normal and important part of democracy. And should there be a need to challenge any of the proceedings or outcomes, petitions through the courts are the avenue to take.  

The Chief Justice and many in the judiciary have trained and prepared to hear cases brought under the electoral law and the constitution.  

Certainly, when violence is used, all Kenyans lose. It is a responsibility of each and every Kenyan to remain calm and to show restraint. But the security forces in particular, must convincingly show even-handedness to all, in providing security where needed.  

In these elections, almost 5 million young Kenyans had the opportunity to vote for the first time. The risk that they become apathetic is real. Of course, the stake young Kenyans should have in the future of their country is enormous, but when they see elections reduced to bills exchanging hands between the wealthy few, and the many many poor, let us reflect on the message that sends. I believe democracy is too valuable to reduce to such transactions.  

The campaign leading to the August 8th elections was intense and at times controversial. Strong and even hateful words were used and identity politics seemed to benefit some, but damaged many.

With the 2010 Constitution, more inclusiveness and public participation are foreseen. Additionally, devolution promises a more proportionate balance between majorities and minorities. Is also seeks the inclusion of 1/3 women in public office. These elections saw a number of women vying for office, who told us that they often faced pushback or even intimidation. That is unacceptable, and unfortunately it is practically impossible for the constitutionally mandated percentage to be met in this election.  

As a female politician myself, I can share that the road is uphill everywhere in the world, but that there is progress.  

Generally, mistrust of ‘the other’ is an ongoing challenge in Kenya. Some had high hopes that new technologies used in these elections could remove concerns. And while technology can be no substitute for trust, the well-functioning of available systems is a prerequisite for confidence. We are still in the process of learning more about the benefits and pitfalls of technology these elections. I believe this should be an ongoing topic for discussion, including the need for proper scrutiny, including of private companies trusted with organizing and servicing elections. Being contracted as a vendor to facilitate the democratic process should go hand in hand with checks and oversight. Similarly, updating data protection laws to match the impact of advancing technologies should better safeguard people’s rights and the rule of law.   

With the history of violence, a number of Kenyans expressed and continue to express fear for seeing election-related violence again. They reported moving away from areas they lived to prevent being targeted or caught up in the violence. In cases when men moved their families, women were disenfranchised. The localized deployment of security was seen to intimidate when the presence was disproportionate.  

In the week before these crucial elections, Kenyans were shocked by the torture and murder of Chris Musando and the young woman found dead with him. I wish to repeat the call for an independent investigation into what happened, and into how his murder may have impacted the electoral process.  

A new development in campaigns worldwide is the use of social media. Kenyans were faced with a number of fake news stories, which were intentionally pushed to mislead. While it is difficult to quantify the measure of impact of the manipulated stories, Kenyans show increased resilience, and page-wide adds were warning for signs to look out for. Educating people to read and watch critically is probably a good advice to voters anywhere.  

Kenya is a guiding country in the East African region. The world watches this electoral process, and we, as the EUEOM will continue to do so in our own capacity. Our 130 observers, have shared hundreds of systematically documented observations from election day. We will put those in context with the other observations made during the campaign, and during these critical days after elections. We are independent and impartial, and look at how the letter of Kenyan law was met in practice.  

I invite you all to read our preliminary statement that you can find in the room and which has a lot of detailed technical information from our work here. I’d like to mention just a few points here of what we have said….

  • A problematic electoral reform process resulted in very little time for the preparation of the elections, especially given the requirements presented by new technologies. The newly-appointed Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) showed resilience, however it struggled with its communication and the finalisation of polling procedures. It was also under extreme pressure with an exceptionally high number of legal challenges. The campaign was characterised by persistent allegations of bias by both camps towards key state institutions. Ultimately, the lack of trust in the election process could not be compensated for by new technology.
  • Voters showed exceptional commitment and determination to cast their ballots. From before the opening of polling stations, there were extensive queues. EU election observation mission (EOM) observers saw security officers appropriately deployed. Candidates’ agents were also very present and assessed to be able to operate freely. Voting and counting was assessed as very well conducted and transparent. There were some problems with secrecy, inking and voters whose biometric identification didn’t work not being sufficiently recorded. Voting was consistently well assessed by EU EOM observers in Jubilee and NASA strongholds, as well as in swing constituencies, with no signs of centralised or localised manipulation. The EU EOM final assessment of the elections will also consider the conduct of the tallying and petitions processes. To date the IEBC has demonstrated its commitment to transparency in the results process, including by putting results forms on line. 

We have humbly observed the will of Kenyans to participate in their democratic process. And I hope this will persist going forward. Democracy is more than one man (or woman) one vote, requires democratic institutions; Kenya is more than elections. I hope that no matter what the further detailed findings of these elections may be, Kenyans will experience the shared benefit of democratic progress. And that they will continue to shape it with the patience and perseverance we all saw last Tuesday. 

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