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Mirage at Dusk: A Human Rights Account of The 2017 General Election

Mirage at Dusk: A Human Rights Account of The 2017 General Election

Mirage at Dusk: A Human Rights Account of The 2017 General Election, Article 1 of the Constitution of Kenya clearly states that all sovereign power belongs to the People of Kenya and that the said power shall be exercised only in accordance with the Constitution. In a representative democracy like ours, one of the critical ways of exercising the people’s sovereign power is through direct and universal suffrage where every eligible voter participates in electing his or her leaders in a free, fair and credible electoral process. When Sovereign Power derives from the people, it means that citizens are empowered to democratically elect their leaders through the ballot. The meaning of the ballot must be extrapolated to go beyond the literal meaning of the physical ballot paper used to vote on Election Day. A credible ballot must be transparent and accountable. Comprehensive measures must be taken to ensure that the right to vote is secured and that every valid vote cast truly counts. 

In Kenya, General Elections are not only guided by the Constitution but also by specific election laws and guiding principles aimed at strengthening the pre-election, the Election Day and the post-election environments. These laws establish the Elections Management Body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) whose specific mandate is to ensure that elections are free, fair and credible. In discharging its mandate, the IEBC is expected to collaborate with both state and non-state actors so that the outcome of any election is anchored on an all-inclusive electoral process that ultimately leads to enhanced legitimacy for the elected leaders.

As a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) mandated with monitoring the adherence of human rights standards in the country, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) embarked on monitoring the 2017 General Election to ensure that human rights principles guided the rights of Kenyans to vote or to be voted for. Through a number of advisories and public presentations, the Commission remained (and will continue to remain) at the forefront of electoral laws amendments that took place in 2016 and 2017. Our advisories and submissions have always been geared towards ensuring that human rights principles, especially those related to elections, are well - infused in any proposed electoral laws amendments.

From the political party primaries, to the election campaign period to the Voting Day and to the post-poll environment after August 8th 2017, Kenyans have witnessed what has arguably been one of the most intense and drawn-out electioneering periods. As would be expected, such an election was likely to be the theater of a number of human rights violations. The Commission was therefore keen to point out any election-related human rights violations from the outset for purposes of forestalling further violations or calling for the violators to be held accountable. The first step that the Commission took was to map out areas enumerated as ‘hotspot areas’ where our work would be focused in order to lay the ground for accurate and efficient information gathering. 

The Commission then proceeded to set up an Electronic Information Management System to capture key human rights issues which included the following: misuse of public resources, incitement, bribery, actions and inactions by security organs, unequal access to public resources and facilities, appropriateness and accessibility of polling venues, violence and security. The information generated by monitoring the foregoing parameters was collected from 33 Counties.

Today, we are proud to launch our report aptly titled: Mirage at Dusk: A Human Rights Account of the 2017 General Election, which is a culmination of 6 months of intense monitoring efforts by the KNCHR. As we all know, a mirage is only visible during the day and not at dusk. A mirage is a moving target. Our title therefore, is a reflection that despite the best intentions and efforts, from our findings, Kenya is yet to achieve the democratic reality of an election unmarred by irregularity and violence. As a country, we must move away from chasing the mirage. We must strengthen our legal and institutional structures aimed at securing a free, fair and credible election, and commit ourselves to fully delivering on the same. It is therefore, our hope that the summary of our findings will go a long way in enriching our future electoral processes.

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