The Supreme Court’s September 1 decision on the 2017 presidential election was historic for Kenya, Africa, and the world. Kenya’s highest court delivered a powerful statement about the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary. The separation of powers is an integral part of a successful democracy. The Supreme Court’s decision underscores the resilience of Kenya’s democracy, and its commitment to the 2010 Constitution.
Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, the hard work of preparing for a new presidential election begins. We await the court’s full verdict, but the IEBC under the leadership of Chairman Wafula Chebukati has started to make changes. The Constitution is clear, as was the Supreme Court: The IEBC will have primary responsibility for executing a free, fair, and credible presidential election worthy of the Kenyan people.
But this is also a collective civic responsibility. Kenyans from across the political spectrum will need to work hand-in-hand and in good faith with the IEBC if it is to deliver a better election in October. The court’s decision was a strong call to everyone, including the international community, to reflect on how to make each election better than the last. As partners, we are doing so and we are ready to assist again.
If the right of all Kenyans to free, fair, and credible elections is to be realised, Kenya’s democratic institutions must do their job well and Kenyans should defend and give them due regard. This means supporting an independent Supreme Court and Judiciary; all should respect justices doing their constitutionally-mandated work.
Civil society should be permitted to perform its critical role without harassment. The media, whether traditional or new, also has an essential role to play in informing the public and in acting, along with civil society, as a watchdog. It should be allowed to do so without impediment, and it should do so without inciting hate. Most importantly, citizens should return to the ballot box to make their choice.
Unfortunately, electoral violence remains a serious problem for Kenya and we again call on all leaders and citizens to reject it utterly. We are deeply troubled by the murder of Chris Msando and by the deaths and injuries we have seen in recent weeks. Kenyans have a right to peaceful protest, and no one should use or call for violence. We strongly urge the security services to avoid using excessive force and to protect lives and property. The police and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority should investigate crimes and reports of misconduct and those responsible for abuses must be prosecuted.
The coming presidential election also faces risks from “fake news”. While fake news is a global phenomenon, its impact here in Kenya is increasingly prominent and negative. Fake news peddlers deliberately endanger their fellow citizens by playing to fears and stoking tensions. Everyone has the responsibility to reject lies and fabrications and to fact check. We should all seek authoritative clarification before spreading fake news further.
Some of our Missions – and some of us individually – have been the subject of fake stories and false attacks in this election period. We strongly reject these attempts to distort our work and our commitment to democracy. Our electoral assistance was requested by the Government of Kenya and conformed at all times with Kenyan law. At no time did we endorse or prefer any candidate or party. We never asked any candidate to concede. Instead, we encouraged candidates with complaints to go to the courts in accordance with Kenya’s Constitution, and we publicly welcomed their decision to do so.
As friends, we are committed to deepening our longstanding bonds with the Kenyan people as they move their country forward. The new presidential election is an extraordinary opportunity for Kenya to strengthen its democracy and its institutions. We urge all Kenyans to seize this moment and impress the world once again.
This op-ed has been signed by the following Heads of Mission in Kenya:
Nic Hailey (High Commissioner for the United Kingdom), Robert F. Godec (Ambassador of the United States),
Mette Knudsen (Ambassador of Denmark), Frans Makken (Ambassador of the Netherlands), Fredrik Folkunger (Chargé d’Affaires a.i, Sweden), Victor Conrad Rønneberg (Ambassador of Norway), Jutta Frasch (Ambassador of Germany), Ramses Malaty (Chargé d’Affaires a.i, Finland).