Interview: ′Compliment for Kenya′ | Africa | DW | 08.03.2013
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Africa

Interview: 'Compliment for Kenya'

Berlin is following the Kenyan elections closely. It has a commitment to development and, as a world exporter, a more than passing interest in the stability of the East African economic powerhouse.

DW: How do you assess the current situation in Kenya?

Günter Nooke: Here in Berlin it is difficult to gauge the situation, even our colleagues from the embassy and other people on the ground in Nairobi with whom I have spoken by phone also found it far from easy to separate out the facts from what could be rumors that are being deliberately put into circulation.

We hope, of course, the Electoral Commission really is independent and the votes really will be counted as accurately as possible, but the debate about spoiled ballots, some of which no longer exist, shows that not everything is above board.

The question is whether the irregularities were so severe that they influenced the outcome of the elections, or not. I can't comment further, but for those of us viewing the election from a western perspective, there is a double problem. I find I cannot side with Raila Odinga and accept without any reservation his assertion that the elections were rigged and that he was robbed of victory for a second time. But there is also the problem that if you start voicing disapproval of Kenyatta because of the upcoming trial at the ICC, there is the immediate assumption that we in the West aren't going to accept a candidate who has been democratically elected by Africans and who has the support of the majority of Kenyans.

We hope that Odinga's assertions can be backed up by facts or shown to be groundless. We also hope that the elections were conducted in an orderly manner.

These are ambitious elections with each voter casting six votes. In accordance with the new constitution, Kenyans were able to choose a new president, parliamentarians, governors, senators, councillors and special women's representatives. Could it be that the Electoral Commission had perhaps taken on too much with such a complicated election and with such an intricate electronic vote counting system?

It was a positive surprise for me that almost everybody who wanted to cast their vote was able to do so. The fact that a number of ballots ended up in the wrong colored boxes shows that the election was a big challenge for all involved, for the organisers and the voters.

Kenya is a partner in Germany's development aid programme. How could this election affect cooperation between the two countries?

We will have to wait and see. As far as Germany and the European Union is concerned, we have no interest in passing judgement on things as they stand now, especially as the election result hasn't been announced yet. The election monitors have also yet to deliver their final judgement. We would, of course, try to avoid doing anything that would put projects that help ordinary people at risk. Of course, it is not easy to say how the situation in Kenya will develop. Everybody hopes things will remain peaceful, there is also the hope that stability won't be imposed from on high and perhaps built on lies.

What could the international community do? Should it put more pressure on the candidates to accept the results of the election?

My own personal wish is that we should find out what really happened, which of the candidates was in the right and who was deliberately trying to mislead people. If it is not completely certain that one of the candidates has garnered more than 50 percent, then a run-off would be thing that could happen.

Uhuru Kenyatta is alleged to have orchestrated the violence after the last elections. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has moved his trial back from April to July. He stands accused of crimes against humanity. Would the German government be prepared to work with a Kenyan president who is in the dock at the ICC?

Being charged is not the same as being pronounced guilty. There is a difference here to the case of al Bashir in Sudan. Kenyatta, like everyone else in a court of law, is assumed innocent until proven guilty and one would have to wait and see what emerged from the trial. Generally speaking, I think it would be a problem for Germany, which supported the Rome Statute (which established the ICC), if we were to debase the activities of the ICC by inappropriate conduct. We would have to expect a number of complications, but we haven't got that far yet. I don't think that will be an issue before July.

And what would be the impact if Kenyatta were found guilty and convicted by the ICC?

There we enter the realm of speculation about which I do not wish to comment, but you know that we do not maintain official ties with President Bashir in Sudan and that when necessary we reach agreements with other people in that country, or talk to other people in Khartoum. That is the right way of doings. If you want to help to strengthen the International Criminal Court, then you must accept its independent jurisdiction. And I think it is not right to claim that only African defendants are sent to trial. Most of the cases at the ICC, such as Sudan, have been referred to it by the UN Security Council, or in the case of Kenya, by the Africans themselves.

What is your assessment of the democratization process in Kenya?

I believe that Kenya is a country in which interest in elections and taking part in elections is deeply entrenched in the population. This was shown on Monday by the long queues at polling stations and how people were doing their best to take part in the elections and in a very disciplined manner. Kenya, in contrast to many other African countries, deserves to be complimented in this regard. But there is still the question of what do we mean by democracy. Are there political programs or policies drawn up by the political parties showing how they would govern the country if elected, such as those with which we are familiar here in Europe? Or do other factors play a role? In Kenya, it seems that ethnicity is now gaining rather than declining in significance. And if the object is to elect the biggest ethnic group then that is not democracy as we understand it.

Günter Nooke is German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Commissioner for Africa

Interview: Andrea Schmidt

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