Kampala — The historic ruling by the Supreme Court of Kenya that overturned the August 8 re-election of president Uhuru Kenyatta may bring further scrutiny to the role of international observers in African elections.
Election observer reports have been criticised by opposition groups in many African countries, including Uganda on several occasions. The reports, most of the time, pass elections as free and fair regardless of what complaints may be raised about them.
Zimbabwe is an outstanding case where observers allied to the West have in the recent past declared the re-election of president Robert Mugabe as having fallen below the required standards. But the practice is usually to endorse the re-election of incumbents.
After the different observer missions accredited to Kenya seemed to give the August election a clean bill of health, even as Mr Raila Odinga protested about the transmission and tallying of results, saying the system was hacked, the observers came under fire from Mr Odinga's team.
Reacting to statements by observers that seemed to endorse the election, Mr Odinga said: "Shame on them".
Mr James Orengo, who would eventually form part of Mr Odinga's legal team, offered the most stinging criticism of the observers, saying in future, it may be necessary to first examine the relationships between the individual observers and incumbents in the elections they were meant to observe. He claimed that there exists a strong relationship between Mr Uhuru and former Ghanaian president John Dramani Mahama.
What some observers said about the election
We commend the IEBC for ensuring that overall law and order prevailed throughout the electoral process observed.," - Prof Edward Rugumayo, head of the East African Community Election Observation Mission to Kenya
Kenya has made a remarkable statement to Africa and the world about its democracy and the character of that democracy." - John Kerry, former US Secretary of State and headed the Carter Centre observer mission
"The opening, voting, closing and counting process... were credible and transparent." - John Dramani Mahama, former president of Ghana who headed the Commonwealth Election Observation Mission to Kenya
"I can give an account of what happened at the polling station where I was and I'm quite sure that nobody would be able to lodge any complaint of what happened there." - Thabo Mbeki, former South Africa president
"I have seen no signs of centralised or localised manipulation of the voting process." - Marietje Schaake, head of the European Union election observer mission