THE LAUNCH OF THE ELECTIONS MONITORING AND ADVOCACY PROGRAMME: Toward an Accountable, Ethical and Rights-Based Electoral Process

 

Introduction

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) is pleased to announce the launch of its Electoral Processes Monitoring Centre for the upcoming general elections under the new constitution, the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 (COK, 2010). Over the years the KHRC has engaged with electoral processes to promote democratic, accountable and human right-centered governance.

KHRC has consistently championed free and fair elections as an important first step towards enhancing accountability, promoting human rights and ensuring a government that is truly representative of all persons and communities within the country. The KHRC believes that the COK 2010 provides the basic foundation that is expected to guide the conduct of free and fair elections through the established electoral institutions, procedures and rules.

KHRC is confident that the proper conduct of elections under the COK 2010 will serve as a critical milestone towards the realization of a free and open society that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. To this end we have established an Electoral Processes Monitoring Centre (EPMC) whose main focus will be to scrutinize the actors, processes and rules that are expected to have the greatest influence on the outcome of the general elections. The Centre is supported by 36 trained monitors who are already working in 17 counties that have been mapped across the country.

1. The Rights-Based Approach

The KHRC will apply international human rights standards to monitor the electoral processes. Using a rights-based approach, the KHRC will scrutinize the extent to which the fundamental rights and freedoms that are necessary to the democratic and accountable conduct of elections are applied, protected and promoted in accordance with the letter and spirit of the constitution. The rights monitored will include: the freedom of expression; the freedom of assembly; the freedom of movement; the freedom of the media, access to information, equality and freedom from discrimination as well as all the elections related rights as set out both within  the national, regional and international human rights instruments.

Specifically, the KHRC will lay emphasis on the education, participation and registration of voters; political party nominations and campaigns; and the actual polling and post-polling processes from July 2012 up to June 2013.  Throughout this period, the Commission will pay particular attention to women, youth, persons with disability and other marginalized groups to ensure that unscrupulous politicians who either exclude or misuse these groups during the electioneering period are duly exposed and deterred as per the established law. Finally the KHRC will monitor and respond to cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), which are mostly meted out against women during the election period.

2. Key Actors and Processes

The KHRC will be monitoring the following key actors within the electoral process before, during and after the general election’s date with the intention of determining the extent to which these actors influence the free and fair conduct of the general elections:

a) Monitoring Political Parties and Aspirants

The conduct of aspirants and political parties in previous elections has been marked by a multiplicity of human rights violations and acts of gross electoral misconduct that have had an adverse effect on the outcome of those elections. Consequently, the KHRC will be monitoring the conduct of political parties and aspirants for violations  during the electioneering process with regard to the following issues:

  1. Use of violence, threats of violence, militias and criminal gangs against all persons, whether contestants or the electorate
  2. Gender-based violence and discrimination
  3. Use of hate speech and unsavoury language in electoral campaigns
  4. Abuse/misuse of public resources (physical, financial and human resources) by those in power to their unfair advantage in the electoral contests. Public resources also include assets belonging to public benefit entities such as Churches, NGOs or CBOs
  5. Voter buying, voter bribery, unwarranted  assisted voting and voter intimidation 

b)Media Monitoring

The media will play (and in fact does so on a daily basis) a fundamental role in informing and alerting the public of the opportunities, dangers, threats and choices that they will face throughout the electoral process. Political coverage, whether through mainstream news, documentaries, advertisements or infomercials, will therefore be a key area of focus in KHRC’s monitoring of the electoral process.

KHRC Executive Director, Atsango Chesoni, in an interview with a journalist at the launch of the Elections Monitoring and Advocacy Programme, Friday July 20,2012 at the KHRC officesWe will pay keen attention to activities of both the aspirants and political parties as reported within the media on the one hand and the activities of the media itself on the other. We will especially scrutinize the level of coverage given by media houses to various aspirants and political parties and the extent to which media houses adhere to standards of fairness and responsible broadcasting during the electioneering period.

It will be important to know whether candidates are accorded equal access not just in unpaid airtime and space but also equal access in political advertising where no aspirant or party is locked out by unfair advertising practices such as fixing of exorbitant rates. To this effect, we have written to the regulator, the Communications Commissions of Kenya for intervention regarding tracking and having a ceiling on amounts charged for political advertising.

We are also employing ICTs to monitor violations occurring on both the traditional media and the social media with a view to reducing incidences of incitement and hate speech. The public can use the SMS numbers 0708000555 OR 0734447444 to report violations which will then be channeled through the USHAHIDI platform for faster response to violations.

c)Monitoring of Relevant Institutions:

As you recall, the Constitution and enacted legislation have established various bodies which are to play specific fundamental roles throughout the electoral process. Of particular importance are the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the Registrar of Political Parties, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, the Panel on Elections Dispute Resolution the National Police Service and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the National Gender and Equality Commission and the Communications Commission of Kenya.

The KHRC will monitor the response of these institutions on the violations and trends against their mandate with respect to the electoral processes. The Commission will partner with and support them in making proactive responses with regard to matters raised.

3.Advocating for Leadership and Integrity:

The Constitution requires the enactment of legislation that will ensure the realization of the principles and standards set out in Chapter Six. However, in the absence of legislation, these principles must still be implemented in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.

The KHRC, in engaging with the design of the legislation on leadership and integrity, has conducted research on the important aspects that must be captured within the draft Bill. The KHRC expects that the draft Bill will establish the proper vetting mechanisms that set the standards that will put into effect the provisions of Article 10 on National Values and Principles and Chapter Six.

These include standards and criteria for profiling, vetting, lustration and litigation on matters of leadership and integrity for elective and appointive positions.  In this regard, the KHRC has narrowed the fundamental principles to the following ten-point clearance checklist that must be met by any individual aspiring for State or Public office:

  1. Tax Compliance
  2. Certification from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission
  3. Certificate of Good Conduct
  4. Clearance letter from the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary
  5. Clearance from the Credit Reference Bureau Africa Limited
  6. Clearance from the Higher Education Loans Board
  7. Clearance from the relevant/respective professional associations
  8. Clearance of Kenya Counseling Association
  9. Clearance from the National Intelligence Service
  10. Clearance from independent commissions under the Bill of Rights (i.e. the Commission for Administrative Justice, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and National Commission on Gender and Equality

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Based on these ten-point criteria, the KHRC is at an advanced stage of compiling a profile of aspirants who have been adversely mentioned in various official and records. This will produce a detailed list of shame which will be used to block the candidates from taking political offices through administrative, legal and civic actions both at the national and county levels.

Similarly, and as part of strengthening the culture of open and meaningful representative democracy, we are compiling a case digest of electoral offenses and we will be instituting court actions and engaging in legislative advocacy around other election-related issues and processes.

We believe that this threshold will give us a general election outcome that will move our country toward a constitutional democracy and away from a repeat of the serious violence that rocked our country following the disputed 2007 presidential poll.

We therefore call upon the public and all stakeholders to remain vigilant and proactive as these processes roll-out to ensure an accountable, ethical and rights-based electoral process.

END

Signed:

Atsango Chesoni