International poll observers call for dialogue to resolve Kenya’s political impasse

NAIROBI. — African and European election observers have called on Kenya’s leaders to engage in dialogue to resolve the political impasse following a controversial presidential re-run last week. In respective statements, the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an eight-country East Africa bloc, made the appeal after incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was announced as the winner. The AU observer mission gave a positive assessment of the repeat presidential polls, but urged political players to engage in dialogue to heal the country from polarisation.

“Overall, the stipulated procedures for opening, voting, closing and counting were largely complied with,” the statement said. “The AU observer mission noted improvements in the technical conduct of the elections.”

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki led the AU team that observed Kenya’s repeat presidential polls that were characterised by low voter turnout, protests and boycotts in opposition strongholds. The AU deployed observers to 20 counties during the October 26 repeat presidential election. In its statement, the EU observer mission stressed that “more than ever, there is a need in Kenya for political leaders to take up their responsibility and find a way out of the impasse through direct talks at the highest level.”

“Grievances over the electoral processes should be addressed through judicial channels for legally-mandated remedy. The courts and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) be given full opportunity to work independently and without undue pressure,” the EU observers said.

Despite these problems, polling and counting appeared to be generally well administered and some technical improvements were evident in the results process although further assessment is still needed, they said. EU Chief Observer Marietje Schaake said actions by rival sides have put Kenya in an extremely difficult position.

“These include attacks on the judiciary as well as the IEBC, the introduction of changes to the legal framework without consensus, obstruction of the electoral process and officials, and some disproportionate actions by the security forces,” Schaake said.

Meanwhile, IGAD observers commended Kenya for conducting a transparent repeat presidential polls on October 26 and urged political leaders to promote national healing after the divisive electioneering season. The bloc said that the voting exercise was largely peaceful and transparent in the 79 polling stations within Nairobi where its observers were deployed.

“Most polling centres and stations opened on time and were laid out in an orderly manner. Our observers had free access to the polling centers and election materials were adequately distributed,” said the bloc.

The regional bloc deployed a team of 21 observers to Kenya who met key stakeholders to gauge the country’s preparedness to hold a repeat presidential election. IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati on Monday announced Kenyatta as the winner after he garnered 98.27 percent of the total votes cast, against his National Super Alliance (NASA) rival Raila Odinga’s 1 percent. – Xinhua

November 2017
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