KENYA: Civil society opposes UK award for biased elections boss

afrCivil society organisations here have reacted with dismay to news that Ahmed Isaack Hassan, Chairman of the Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), has been nominated for the Electoral Conflict Resolution Award by the UK-based International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS).

Hassan has been heavily criticised for the manner IEBC conducted the presidential election in March 4 and the declaration of Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner. Several IEBC officials, including three top mangers, are facing trial for procurement-related fraud charges.

“We write to express our concern over this nomination, which we think is not deserved and risks devaluing your award and sending the wrong message on the transparent conduct of elections,” several individuals and organizations said in a letter to ICPS, coordinated by the Africa Centre for Governance (Africog).

“The ICPS’s nomination of Mr. Hassan for the Electoral Conflict Resolution Award underrates the significant public polarisation in the aftermath of the election. It underestimates the importance of diminishing public confidence in the IEBC, which is no longer perceived as an impartial elections management body. This drop in confidence threatens its public legitimacy for future elections.”

The activists said it was misleading to credit the IEBC with the decreased incidents of violence during the March elections. It was not that the IEBC failed to provide a potential trigger for violence in 2013, given its questionable handling of the electoral process. Instead, it was politicians who were deterred from inciting, organizing and funding violence because of pending cases at the International Criminal Court for the 2008 post-election violence. In addition, ordinary Kenyans were determined not to resort to violence.

They also pointed out that it was important to understand that the lack of violence was not the same as true peace.

“Crediting the IEBC with forestalling violence diminishes the importance of this difference. Public opinion polls held after the elections show a deep divide in Kenyan society, especially in relation to their views on the legitimacy of the most recent election. One poll found that over 95 per cent of those who felt the election was free and fair came from ethnic groups aligned to the victorious Jubilee Coalition while only 20 per cent of that group came from communities aligned with opposition candidates.”

Hassan’s handling of the 2013 Kenyan election did little to promote conflict resolution, the letter stated, citing his political biases, revealed during the Supreme Court hearings on the challenge to the presidential election.

In his affidavit to the Court, Hassan described opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga as being “adept at making others scapegoats for his failures and electoral defeats. He is a man used to ruining others as a sacrifice for his failures and electoral defeats. (…) It is high time we called a spade a spade as we deconstruct the issues that define the petitioner’s well-known pattern of refusing to concede defeats.” Mr. Hassan also called Mr. Odinga self-centered, narcissistic, and ego-centric.

“Such remarks, coming from the chairman of an institution whose independence is critical, are clearly inappropriate and ill-judged.”

While the electoral process was relatively “peaceful,” in terms of the absence of violence, it was marred by a grave lack of transparency and several constitutional and legal problems related to the voters’ register, counting, tallying and results transmission, the letter said.

“More than eight months after the election, polling-station results have yet to be released and 2,585 polling station tallying forms (known as Form 34) are still missing from the public record. These problems go beyond the threshold of acceptable electoral errors, constitute gross mismanagement of the electoral process and seriously weaken the legitimacy of the process over which Mr. Hassan presided.”

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