Kenya 2022: International observers praise voting, warn on disinformation

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Kenya 2022: Who will win the great race?

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Friday, 12 August 2022 18:03, updated on Saturday, 13 August 2022 11:33

Sierra Leone's former President Ernest Bai Koroma and Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete attend an international observers briefing on Kenya's general election organised by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in Nairobi, Kenya August 11, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

As Kenyans wait for the final presidential results, international observers – in their preliminary reports – say the voting exercise was largely peaceful, even though there has been spread of disinformation that confused some voters.

On Thursday 11 August, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) began to verify presidential results from 291 constituencies, with initial results indicating a tight race between deputy president William Ruto and former prime minister Raila Odinga.

Meanwhile, observers from the East Africa Community (EAC), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Commonwealth, the African Union (AU), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the European Union praised the electoral body for conducting a smooth voting exercise, despite reported cases of failed electronic identification kits in some polling stations.

“Overall, the EAC observer mission is satisfied with how the voting was conducted, “ said Tanzania’s former president Jakaya Kikwete, the head of the observer group.

However, the regional observer group called for better communication between the electoral agency and various political stakeholders to avoid mistrust in future elections.

Africa Union and COMESA report

Observers from the AU say some politicians – without naming them – misused state resources that created an unfair playing field, especially for smaller campaigns.

“While the campaigns were largely peaceful and issue-based, hate speech, misuse of state resources, non-adherence to campaign schedules” were problems, said Ernest Bai Koroma, the head of the AU mission and a former president of Sierra Leone.

Low turnout of young people was also noted as a concern. “Only 39.84% [8.8 million] of the total registered voters were youth, a decline of 5.17% from the 2017 figures,” said Koroma.

Commonwealth, EU and NDI

Even as verifying and tallying of the presidential results continues, both the Odinga and Ruto camps are using social media to tell their supporters that their candidate has won.

Observers from the Commonwealth are warning that the delay in releasing the final presidential results is allowing disinformation to spread and is causing tension among supporters.

“The time lag between the announcement of the official results is an area of concern,” said Bruce Golding, the head of the Commonwealth observer group. Results from the presidential race are expected on Tuesday 16 August.

Results must be tabulated accurately to ensure confidence in the system

Observers from the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a US-based group, echoed these remarks, noting that misinformation may in turn lead citizens towards a lack of confidence in the IEBC.

“Results must be tabulated accurately to ensure confidence in the system,” said Donna Brazile, head of the NDI.

Ivan Štefanec, the chief observer of the EU team, said fundamental freedoms were respected during the voting exercise, but procedural shortcomings demonstrate the need for improvements.

“Lack of proper campaign finance framework damaged the campaign environment and created an unlevel playing field, disadvantaged those with less access to funds, especially women, who made up only 12% of the candidates,” said Štefanec.

He further observed that the Kenyan media covered the elections extensively, though some bias in broadcast media was also flagged.

Awaiting the results

The observers said they can only determine if the Tuesday vote was free and fair after the final announcement of the presidential vote.

They have, however, urged the losing candidate, if not satisfied, to mount a legal challenge in court and maintain calls for peace.

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