In the last two days, Kenyans have been exposed to a continuous release of unverified election results, which has greatly escalated tension and anxiety around the country, most of which has emanated from mainstream and social media spaces propagated by the political actors. The above situation has further been exacerbated by the divergent live coverage of the presidential results tallying by the mainstream media which has caused confusion, anxiety, fear, unrest and in extreme cases, violence. The different sequencing of results in at least five (5) media houses has continued to display varying provisional results which can be construed to be in favour of the party seen to be leading on their platforms. Media houses also have a responsibility to educate the public, particularly in this sensitive environment. Publication of media houses’ tallying results must be accompanied by transparent, accessible, user-friendly information to the public on how these results can legitimately be interpreted. This should include easily visible information on timelines of the results, and the numerical coverage in terms of how many votes the results being reported have tallied. At all times, media must be at pains to inform the public that these periodic updates do not constitute final declarations on who has won the elections.
Social media has been awash with false information relating to the results of the elections which has not only caused massive tension, and division amongst the more than 23 million internet users in Kenya but has the potential to spark violence as has been witnessed in some parts of the country. According to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), there have been 74 elections-related cases reported, out of which 9% relate to publication of false information. We call on all institutions to uphold the constitutional rights of Kenyans, in this case, to freedom of expression: the DPP cannot be the arbiter of what Kenyans are allowed to say or not say.
We are deeply concerned over the premature preparations of purported presidential “victory” celebrations made by the leading political parties as seen on both mainstream and social media platforms. The Angaza Movement calls for political maturity from everyone including the citizens and political leaders and their followers. Kenya has had to deal with a history of political violence and conflict in several parts of the country associated with inter political disagreements and intransigence. With palpable tensions increasing as a result of the projection of wins by the 2 lead political parties and their followers, we are now caught up in an environment of strong partisan positions that may overshadow an opportunity for both patience and tolerance. We further urge the IEBC to appreciate the political historical context around elections and therefore the need for constant update on the tallying process, to reassure Kenyans on the status of the count.
The Constitution of Kenya, 2010, has placed a responsibility on Kenyans to exercise and protect the rights contained within it; it is only by actively and responsibly exercising these rights that they will achieve the full promise of the constitution. There also exists a legal framework for counting, tallying, verifying and announcing election results and the IEBC must follow that law. The IEBC remains the authority on the final declaration of the results.
We therefore demand that:
- The political parties and their allies refrain from raising tension through premature and careless pronouncements of purported and unverified winners with immediate effect.
- We urge social media platforms to continue carrying out their mandates in regulating content, while the public on the other hand should exercise their civic responsibility and refrain from making unsubstantiated claims on the ongoing tallying of results.
- Kenyans everywhere assume their civic duty to critically assess unfounded claims of victory with the necessary vigilance
- The Media Council of Kenya speeds up the consultation process towards commonly accepted best practices on the relaying of results by media houses as indicated on their press statement dated August 10, 2022, considering the environment that they are working in.
- Kenyans continue to exercise patience and to uphold peace as the IEBC concludes the tallying process.