Jubilee, Nasa hardliners face visa bans, say envoys

US ambassador in Kenya Robert Godec with other foreign diplomats during a press briefing in Nairobi on October 2, 2017. PHOTO DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG
US ambassador in Kenya Robert Godec with other foreign diplomats during a press briefing in Nairobi on October 2, 2017. PHOTO DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG 

Foreign diplomats on Monday intensified pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta and the National Super Alliance (Nasa) presidential candidate Raila Odinga, urging them to stop political games ahead of the looming repeat presidential election.

Led by the United States and European Union missions in Nairobi, the diplomats warned hardliners and inciters on both sides of the political divide of possible sanctions – including travel bans and denial of visas.

Such action would mainly target those advocating for violence and purveyors of hate speech.

“We are watching what’s happening and if and when appropriate, we will take steps under US law to hold people accountable. There are many different potential measures we can take and I am not going to get into that speculation, but I will say obviously visa bans and other travel measures are one possibility,” US ambassador Robert Godec said.

British deputy high commissioner Susie Kitchens said the United Kingdom was also watching carefully and anyone found to be inciting or engaging in violence must be held accountable and that should be done by Kenyan institutions.

“We are following too and the UK reserves the right to take appropriate action, which may include refusing visas,” he said.

The diplomats particularly hit out at the Jubilee government’s quest to make changes to electoral laws just days to the October 26 repeat presidential poll and Nasa’s demand for staff changes at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

“It is international best practice not to make changes to electoral laws without broad political agreement. If everyone were to agree on changes that needed to be made, that would be fine but at the moment, we would encourage everyone to look at international best practice and work together to bring the election and make it free, fair and credible and peaceful and to hold it in a constitutional manner,” Mr Godec said.

The 14 envoys spoke after meeting the IEBC leadership headed by chairman Wafula Chebukati alongside commissioners Consolata Maina, Roselyn Akombe and Richard Kurgat.

Mr Godec, who read a statement on behalf of his colleagues, said that while it is time for both sides to show leadership, strengthen Kenya’s democracy and build the country’s international prestige, the opposite is being done.

“The “Election Laws Amendment Bill,for example, puts at risk the IEBC’s ability to conduct a better election within the mandated 60-day timeline, and unnecessarily increases political tensions,” they said.

The problem with the bills, he said, is their timing so close to the elections and the lack of agreement among interested parties.

“Wise reforms to an established electoral process take time.  They require thoughtful reflection and broad agreement from all parties. Well-established international best practice is to avoid changes to electoral rules just prior to an election,” they said.

Jubilee Party is the sponsor of the bill in parliament – an effort that caused the collapse of talks with the IEBC.

The bills have since taken attention away from the opposition’s many demands on the IEBC, making them an effective political weapon in the hands of Jubilee against their rivals.