The conference seeks to assess the overall performance and effectiveness of long term election observation and monitoring as a process through which an election is scrutinized and evaluated for purposes of determining its impartiality in terms of organization and administration.

Among those invited are representatives from civil society organizations involved in election observation in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and Sudan, regional observer networks such SADC-ESN and WAEON; the election
management body in Kenya (IEBC); developmental partners; EHORN secretariat; and the Kenya Human Rights Commission staff who will seek to exchange knowledge and experiences that will contribute to improving the integrity of elections through long term election observation activities.

Election observation in Africa tends to be heavily focused on procedures on polling day yet this is only one aspect of the election process. The opportunities for abuse are usually created, deliberately in the pre-election period when the voter register is prepared, political parties formed and registered, candidates nominated and campaigns carried out. On the other hand the election observation period of field presence is often too short to cover the entire process and hardly is the number of observers sufficient to ensure adequate coverage.

The main strategy proposed for dealing with this problem is to employ a system of long-term observation as opposed to short-term observation. While short-term observation covers the activities of voting, vote counting and the declaration of results, long-term observation involves observing the events that define the electoral process from the setting up of electoral management bodies, voter registration, voter education, political party registration, candidate nomination political campaigning and media issues, voting and the counting through to the swearing in of elected regimes.

Admittedly, most of the observation bodies in Africa have been struggling to operationalize the concept of long term observation. This has been exacerbated by lack of or limited resources in the post-election period. As a result, most
long term observation attempts have remained informal and limited in scope hence reduce in effectiveness. These problems can be tackled within a framework of institutionalized observation in which a universally acceptable mechanism that is bilaterally agreed upon is employed. This is what informs the need to have a regional conference aimed at engaging peer to peer to come up with a resolution on the way forward in the region.