Democratic elections provide an opportunity for the Kenyan people to express their will to make political choices that is actualized by the guaranteed right to vote and be voted for. Elections provide an avenue for the participation in public affairs by the electorate in determining how they will be governed. This choice secures the legitimate authority of a serving government and the promotion and protection of human rights. Elections therefore are subject to human rights norms and standards and scrutiny through human rights monitoring.
In Kenya’s history, the year 1992 changed the political sphere through an amendment of Section 2A of the then Constitution that set forth the onset of multiparty politics. Ever since, elections in Kenya have been characterized as being highly competitive and polarizing. This is principally because political parties and coalitions have been organized along ethnic or regional affiliations.
The 1997 elections were marred by violence whilst the 2007 elections have gone down in the annals of Kenyan history as one of the most violent periods in the country. It is estimated that the violence led to the loss of 1,500 lives, displacement of more than 600,000 people, destruction of property worth millions of Kenyan shillings, injury and maiming of several thousands of people (including victims of sexual and gender based violence). The violence in 2007 was triggered by ethnic animosity fueled by hate speech, disputed election results (especially the Presidential) based on the perception that the then Electoral Commission had been compromised and therefore manipulated the result in favour of Hon. Mwai Kibaki. Further, those who disputed the results declared that they had no confidence in the judiciary, therefore opting to engage in mass protests, instead of challenging the outcome in court.
The police were indicted by the Commission of inquiry into post-election violence (Waki Commission) as having used excessive and lethal force against civilians. The violence also occasioned the indictment of six individuals by the International Criminal Court , against whom all the cases have now been withdrawn, terminated or charges discharged.
The 2007-8 violence acted as a catalyst for the reforms agenda as agreed upon in the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Accord of February 2008.
Among the key areas identified for reforms was election management. These reforms were anchored in the constitutional provisions relating to leadership, integrity and national values; inclusivity and non-discrimination; establishment of an independent electoral management body with commissioners enjoying security of tenure; establishment of an independent judiciary with a Supreme Court and establishment of a National Police Service based on the principles of professionalism, accountability, transparency and respect for human rights.
The 2013 elections were significant in that they were the first elections after the promulgation of the constitution in August 2010. These elections were hotly contested due to the fact that coalitions were seemingly formed along ethnic and regional lines. There were reported incidents of electoral malpractices including voter bribery, party hopping, hate speech and the most significant being the failure of the BVR equipment to capture and transmit the results to the national tally centers in real-time especially the presidency.
The CORD coalition upon losing the election moved to the Supreme Court to challenge the results and the Supreme Court upheld the election result . The Supreme Court ruled that the elections were conducted in compliance with the Constitution and the law, that Uhuru Kenyatta was validly elected as President and that the rejected votes ought not to have been included in the calculation of the final tally in favour of each presidential candidate.