EU observers say Kenya stymied visit to present final election report

Reuters  | Jan 10, 2018 11:10AM ET

EU observers say Kenya stymied visit to present final election report

By Maggie Fick

NAIROBI (Reuters) - European Union observers of Kenya's 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections said on Wednesday that a lack of government cooperation meant they were unable to travel to the East African nation to present their final report on the vote.

Chief observer Marietje Schaake said the EU mission was scheduled to present its final report to the government and other groups in Kenya this week. The report must be published within three months of the vote, per the mission's agreement with the government.

"It was made very clear [by the government] that there was no willingness and no preparedness to meet us now," she told Reuters by phone from Brussels, where she gave a press conference on Wednesday to release the report.

"We need to know we can be received properly, because of issues like security concerns."

She said she could not speculate on why the mission was rebuffed but said it had been criticized by both the ruling party and the opposition and intimidated during its observation of the turbulent electoral period in Kenya.

President Uhuru Kenyatta won an October re-run of the August presidential election and was sworn in for second five-year term in November. The Supreme Court nullified the first presidential election over irregularities.

The extended election season in East Africa's richest economy was marred by violence between police and protesters and by an opposition boycott of the repeat vote.

It is very rare, Schaake said, for EU election missions not to return to the host country to present their conclusions, she said, recalling only a handful of times in more than 150 such missions.

Johnson Weru, Kenya's ambassador to Belgium and the EU, rejected Schaake's claim, saying they observation mission had confirmed a visit between mid-February to mid-March to release the report.

"The Government ... regrets the unprocedural and premature manner in which the Final Report on the EU Election Observation Mission has been released by ... Schaake," he said in a statement.

The EU report concluded that the election commission had performed better in the October re-run than in the initial August poll, but that a persistent lack of trust in the institution by the opposition and other stakeholders affected the credibility of the process.

Other key concerns raised in the report were "intimidation by politicians from both sides of independent institutions, such as the [election commission] IEBC and the judiciary, some violence by opposition protesters and the use of disproportionate force by security forces."

Schaake said the EU has "continuously called for dialogue to overcome the deep polarization" caused by the elections. She said it did not seem that this dialogue was occurring.