A think tank affiliated with the US Defence Department is warning that the weakness of national and international institutions could fuel election-related violence in Kenya.
“A perception of impunity hangs over the election process,” states an analysis published on Monday by the Pentagon’s Africa Centre for Strategic Studies.
Indictments issued by the International Criminal Court prior to the 2013 election “served as a clear warning to all candidates, tempering language that some could consider hate speech,” says Dorina Bekoe, author of the Africa Centre’s study.
“In 2017,” she adds, “no such international watchdog exists” due to the unraveling of the ICC cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.
Prof Bekoe acknowledges that “the Judiciary has taken a number of serious steps toward reform.”
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She cites public vetting of judicial appointments, enhanced training and professionalism of Judiciary staff and upgrades of the courts’ information technology systems.
“However,” she cautions, “claims by the ruling coalition that the Judiciary has not acted independently raises concerns about whether the courts could serve as an avenue to redress electoral grievances.”
Nasa’s questioning of the political motives of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission also fosters uncertainty over potential reactions to the election outcome, Prof Bekoe says.
With 14,550 candidates running for 1,182 elected offices around the country, “Kenya’s elections will be the most competitive in its history,” Prof Bekoe observes.