Kenya: ′The country is polarized′ | Africa | DW | 19.10.2017
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Africa

Kenya: 'The country is polarized'

The national coordinator of Kenya's Election Observation Group believes the election should not be held in the current political climate. He is calling for new directions from the Supreme Court.

Mulle Musau is the national coordinator of Kenya's Election Observation Group. This organization's goal is to monitor and observe Kenya's electoral processes and to contribute to improved electoral governance. He kindly spoke with DW after Roselyn Akombe's resignation.

Read more: Kenya election commissioner quits ahead of repeat presidential vote

DW: Were you surprised by Roselyn Akombe's resignation?

Mulle Musau: Roselyn Akombe was a very influential commissioner, because she was really the public face of the commission. So, of course, it came as a surprise to very many people. But for people who have been looking at the processes that have been going on, it's not so much of a surprise. We have been aware that there have been quite a lot of internal conflicts within the electoral commission itself, in terms of them being able to agree on making certain critical decisions.

And this is something, you know, we have spoken to the commission - just 2 days ago we asked them to show leadership. We felt that the commission, on one hand, needed to solve the internal wrangles between the different teams and also step up and show leadership on the directions that the country needs to take in terms of the election.

They have given so much leeway to the politicians and therefore the chairman, and the commission needs to be seen to be working together...and giving very clear directions on the country. This was outlined in a statement that we gave on Monday this week.

What would you say to Roselyn Akombe's statement that the upcoming elections will not be "credible"?

A portrait of Mulle Musau

Mulle Musau, national coordinator of Kenya's Elections Observation Group

Well, there are too many things going on. Firstly, we are not very clear, even as election observers, that everything has been done. If you ask me, within the timeline that has been given, whether there will be credible elections, then, of course, I will tell you "No", because the timeline which they have is really limited. We have so many cases which are in court, there are too many (legal) interpretations.

One of the things that Akombe also said is that the commission is under siege by politicians. So you have the country's executive weighing in and perhaps influencing some of the commissioners and their positions.

I would agree with her. Having elections at such a time, when the country is polarized, when there is no time to put everything in order, where there's no transparency in most of the processes...You will not be able to have credible elections in such an environment. And therefore, I think she was right, as far as that is concerned — and anyway, she is coming from inside the commission. I have to observe things from outside. But I would be much more inclined to believe her, than relying on any other information I could to gather on my own.

Read more: Opinion: Kenya needs statesmanship, not brinkmanship

Do you think the elections should be held next week? What other solutions could there be?

From the Election Observation Group's point of view, there are a number of things that need to be cleared up. First, if you are just discussing the issues of having a conducive environment for conducting elections, then the 26th is not the right time, because there is too much political polarization and there are heightened tensions — which can only make for a bad election.

I also understand the pressure for the commission, which is that they were given 60 days by the Supreme Court to hold an election. That then expires on the 1. November. Any further delays will create a constitutional crisis in the country.

What we have recommended to them, is that the electoral commission should go and seek a direction from the Supreme Court again. They need to petition the court, to ask whether they can be able to defer the election to a date which is more favorable, so that they can hold the election in a conducive environment.

If that happens before the 26th, then there are chances that the Supreme Court can give a clear electoral direction…But at the moment it is a contested date and we are all waiting to see whether the election will happen or not.

The interview was conducted by Chloe Lyneham.

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