John Kerry pushes for fair polls as he leads observers

US Secretary of State John Kerry addressing a press briefing at Vila Rosa Kempinski Hotel on August 22, 2016 on regional peace and security. He met President Uhuru Kenyatta and members of his Cabinet. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The US last year said it will send Sh2.5 billion to the IEBC ahead of this year’s polls.
  • Mr Kerry and Ms Toure will check compliance with the electoral laws and the general conduct of the voting.

Former US Secretary of State John Kerry returns to Kenya to observe elections he often spoke about during his term of office.

Mr Kerry, who was President Barack Obama’s top diplomat between 2013 and 2016, is co-leading an observation mission sent here by the Carter Centre.

“I urge all political parties and candidates to support a fair, orderly, credible and non-violent electoral process; respect the electoral code of conduct; and keep faith with the Kenyan people,” Mr Kerry said in a statement after the announcement of his role this week.

The statement, released by the centre, indicates that Mr Kerry and former Prime Minister of Senegal Aminata Touré will jointly head its Election Observation Mission to Kenya.

The centre, formed in 1982 by former US President Jimmy Carter and Emory University, is a non-profit organisation that specialises in “advancing democracy, human rights, climate change and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care”, according to its website.

For Mr Kerry, this would be his third time in Kenya in three years.

He talked about democracy, security and human rights during his visits.

Mr Kerry’s last visit was in August last year, when he met President Uhuru Kenyatta and members of his Cabinet.


Later, he met opposition leaders, at the time, Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula of Cord, Martha Karua of Narc-Kenya and Musalia Mudavadi of the Amani National Congress.

“I underscored with President Uhuru Kenyatta and in a meeting with opposition leaders the need for all parties to commit to free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in 2017,” he said last year.

“Holding a free and fair, peaceful credible election is a critical step in consolidating Kenya’s democracy,” he told a press conference.

Mr Kerry came when President Obama’s administration was facing lukewarm relations with Nairobi.

Before the 2013 elections, former US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson had told Kenyans that “choices have consequences” in what the Jubilee alliance then interpreted to mean America was targeting its candidate indicted by the International Criminal Court.

But his term saw the relations thaw, culminating in a visit to Kenya by President Obama in July 2015.

Now the US is among the main donors of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Under a project run by the United Nations Development Programme and known as “Strengthening Electoral Processes in Kenya”, the US, the European Union and the United Kingdom have pooled $24 million (Sh2.4 billion) and they train and support the IEBC and other government departments involved in securing elections, as well as supporting women to vie for seats.

The US last year said it will send Sh2.5 billion to the IEBC ahead of this year’s polls.

The centre sent an advance team of observers during party primaries in April.

Mr Kerry and Ms Toure, with their team of 50 observers, will check compliance with the electoral laws, preparedness of the IEBC, security services provided and the general conduct of the voting.

They will meet political party candidates, officials of civil society organisations, government officials, local observers and other international election observers, before observing polling and vote tabulation.