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Economy

Britain defends decision to spend Sh3.87 bn on Kenya's election

UK High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey during a policy dialogue ahead of the general elections in Nairobi on February 2, 2017. Photo | Jeff Angote | NMG
UK High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey during a policy dialogue ahead of the general elections in Nairobi on February 2, 2017. Photo | Jeff Angote | NMG 

The UK government has come out to justify to the British public its decision to spend £28.5 million (about Sh3.87 billion) to support preparations for tomorrow’s General Election amid sharp criticism from its political analysts and sections of the press.

The cash, disbursed through the Department for International Development (Dfid) - the British State agency responsible for administering overseas aid - has been spent on voter education, conflict resolution and technical support for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Despite concerns from critics who point to millions of dollars in aid money lost to corruption over the past decade, Britain reassured that spending of the funds was being overseen by the Foreign Office in Kenya.

"We support free, fair and peaceful elections in Kenya to help to maintain security and stability, which is in all our interests," A spokesman for the Dfid said.

The aid agency insists the money will “help to secure credible, well managed and non-violent elections”, adding that it also provides support to NGOs, oversight bodies and independent commissions, thereby supporting the goal of making Kenya a more stable democracy.

In all, western donors have provided £68 million (about Sh9 billion) towards the total cost of the election which is put at more than £400 million (about Sh54 billion).

Departure from US policy

The UK's support for Kenya's and other countries' democratic processes is in stark contrast to the United States under the Trump administration.

Last week, The Times newspaper pointed out that a leaked internal memo from the US State department suggested it would no longer pay to promote democracy around the world.

All references to justice and democracy were also reported to have been taken out of its new foreign policy mission statement.

Nevertheless, US Ambassador Robert F. Godec, along with his British counterpart Nic Hailey and Stefano A. Dejak (Ambassador of the European Union), were among 22 Ambassadors and High Commissioners who put out a joint statement on tomorrow’s poll.

"We urge all Kenyans to give the IEBC the space to fulfill its vital role. It is essential that IEBC staff be safe from harassment or attack, and we welcome the Government of Kenya’s commitment to provide them with additional security...All sides should respect judicial independence and be prepared to resolve any disputes over the polls peacefully through the courts and not violently in the streets," the envoys said in a statement released last week.

"Leaders and politicians have a responsibility to reject violence and hate speech, and to urge their followers to do the same. Candidates running for office, whether they win or lose, should be prepared to welcome the decision of the people with grace and humility," it added.

'Support democracy'

UK High Commissioner Nic Hailey went further in a recent speech in which he said that democracy is the best form of government, but that it requires determination and commitment.

"It involves real competition, debate, argument. Feelings are strongly held. The stakes are often high...It is not easy to be the referee, often under attack from both sides. It is vital that the IEBC be given the space to fulfill its role," he said.

Key CBK Indicative Exchange Rate Used: £1 = Sh135.86

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