Arusha Times (Arusha)

17 November 2012

East Africa: Region Electoral Chiefs Hope for Peaceful Kenya Polls

Electoral chiefs from the East African Community (EAC) have counselled Kenya's Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to uphold the principles of democracy and credible 4 March 2013 polls.

The Electoral heads are meeting in Nairobi, Kenya to review the draft EAC Principles for Election Observation and Evaluation in the Partners. If adopted by the EAC Council next week, Kenya will be the first beneficiary of the document.

"The challenges are enormous but we are confident that the Kenya elections will be a success story," the delegates stated in their separate remarks.

They also echoed for peaceful polls in Kenya, saying that Nairobi's smooth conduct of the general elections would have an impact to the region.

However, Head of Burundi delegation Ambassador Pierre Clavier called on the political parties to demonstrate tolerance during the electoral process and announcement of results.

"Democracy is suffering because political parties' leaders do not appreciate and embrace political competition," he told the delegates, which included Registrars of political parties, lawyers, activists, human rights experts, journalists and government policy officers.

Amb. Clavier, who is the Chairperson of the Burundi Electoral body, added that domestic and international observers play a key role during elections because they are on the ground and create confidence among political party leaders, voters and civil society.

Rwanda's Secretary Charles Munyaneza stressed for deployment of long term observers for elections in order to provide deeper analysis of the process. He also recommended to the Partner States for self-financing of the general elections and own them.

EAC Deputy Secretary General in-charge of Political Federation Dr Julius Rotich said the Kenya must take all steps to ensure it avoided the pit falls of 2007 that led to the post-election violence which paralyzed operations in the country and trade within the five-member bloc.

"You cannot do anything if don't have proper elections. If you look back at what happened during 2007-2008 we were paralyzed, and we would really like to avoid such situations in any partner states.

"If there is disruption to any of the partner states then the whole community is disrupted," he said, adding that EAC fully supports smooth and peaceful elections in Kenya.

The EAC official told the delegates that the development of the draft EAC Principles on election observation was a positive move towards having a common regional instrument for assessing the legitimacy and credibility of elections.

"Once the draft is considered and adopted, it will serve as a tool in guiding elections in EAC Partner States," he said.

The Chairperson of the meeting, who is also the Vice Chairperson of the Kenya IEBC Lillian Mahiri-Zaja, said that it was worthwhile to learn from the experiences of other EAC Partner States on elections.

She said Kenya was now operating under the new constitution and the next year's challenge is serious test for the country's democracy. "The March polls will be a litmus test on how it [constitution] is being implemented", she said.

East African News Agency

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