Statement of preliminary findings: African Union and COMESA election observation mission to the 9 August 2022 general elections in the Republic of Kenya

The 9 August 2022 general elections were the seventh held since the introduction of multi-party politics in the country in 1991 and the third under the 2010 Constitution. Previous polls, especially in 2007 and 2017, were marred by violence. Thus, while stakeholders made significant efforts to ensure peaceful elections, current political dynamics, particularly the shifting political alliances and the country’s post-independence history of election-related violence, had many citizens speculate about the prospect of tumultuous elections.

The African Union (AU) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) participated in the elections following the invitation by the Government of Kenya and in accordance with their mandate to promote peaceful, credible and democratic elections in their member states. The joint AU-COMESA Election Observation Mission (EOM) assessed the compliance of the 9 August elections against national, regional and international commitments and obligations of Kenya for the conduct of democratic elections. The main preliminary findings of the Mission are:

The 9 August 2022 General Elections were highly competitive, and the campaign was comparatively more peaceful than previous elections. There was a notable shift from ethnocentric presidential campaigns to issue-focused campaigns.

The legal framework governing elections in Kenya was largely adequate for the conduct of credible and democratic elections. In particular, the Judiciary played a critical role in guaranteeing the right to a fair and expeditious hearing, which increased citizens’ trust and confidence in the electoral process. This was evidenced by the willingness of citizens to approach the courts for adjudication. However, last-minute election-related litigations and court decisions necessitated procedural changes, which posed a risk to the smooth implementation of electoral operations. The IEBC had limited time to communicate and implement the changes.

There was a notable improvement in the IEBC’s strategic communication with stakeholders through periodic briefings and social media updates, although this came late into the process.

The IEBC changed its use of technology in the 2022 elections. Specifically, it introduced additional voter identity verification features in the Kenyan Integrated Elections Management Systems (KIEMS) kit to provide for biometric and alphanumeric identification of voters on election day based on lessons learnt from the 2017 elections. The changes to the KIEMS provided the capture and transmission of images of the duly completed presidential election results forms from the polling station to the National Tallying Centre. As a result of these changes to the Results Transmission System (RTS), the provisional presidential election results were publicly accessible on the IEBC portal. The Mission welcomes introducing these transparency measures to improve the integrity of the electoral process.

Although stakeholders had initial concerns about the risk posed by the lack of mobile network coverage in 1,111 polling stations, the IEBC put measures such as using satellite phones to facilitate the transmission of results. The Mission noted that within 24 hours of the close of polling, over 95% of the polling stations had transmitted presidential results forms (form 34A) to the National Tallying Centre.

In line with the AU election observation mission’s recommendations in the 2017 elections, the IEBC was more deliberate this time in its stakeholder engagement. Specifically, the Mission notes the IEBC strategically communicated with stakeholders through periodic briefings and the use of social media. Furthermore, IEBC engaged political parties and candidates to promote peaceful elections by signing a Peace Pledge by the four presidential candidates.

The Mission was informed about the late release of funds to the IEBC by the National Treasury. This impacted the effective implementation of key electoral processes, such as voter registration, verification of the voters’ register and voter education. For instance, while the IEBC accredited several civil society organisations to complement its efforts in conducting voter education, the Mission observed that this commenced late and was not comprehensive.

The AU-COMESA EOM noted that despite the relatively high youth population (18-35), there was low youth registration in the 2022 elections. Only 39.84% (8,812,790) of the total registered voters were youth, a decline of 5.17% from the 2017 figures. Stakeholders consulted by the Mission attributed the low youth participation to the general conception that the votes do not count in elections, lack of trust and confidence in the political system, and the youth’s unemployment and poverty in particular face in Kenya today.

The Mission acknowledged the efforts made by the IEBC to audit the voter register to enhance its accuracy and completeness to build confidence among the stakeholders. Assessment by the Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG) auditing firm highlighted key findings arising from the voter register. These relate to the transfers and voter details updates processes, registration of voters’ database and systems controls inclusiveness in the registration of voters and makes recommendations to address reported findings. Although the IEBC embarked on remedial measures to update the voters’ register, there were still concerns about duplications and deceased persons on the register.

The 2022 elections witnessed a high level of participation of political parties and independent candidates. Out of the 90 registered parties, 81 contested the elections. Of the 16,105 candidates, 28.1% were independents. Many independent candidates were reportedly dissatisfied with the candidate selection processes within political parties. Notwithstanding this, the party primaries in 2022 were reportedly more peaceful than in 2017.

The campaign environment was vibrant and largely peaceful. Political parties and candidates used various campaign methods such as mass rallies, door-to-door, distribution of campaign materials, and mainstream and social media, among others. The campaign messages were centred around socio-economic issues rather than on an ethnic basis as was in the past. While the campaigns were largely peaceful and issue-based, hate speeches, misuse of state resources, non-adherence to campaign schedules, violence, and use of criminal gangs were observed. The misuse of state resources created an unlevel playfield, especially for smaller political players. Likewise, the non-adherence to campaign schedules caused clashes among supporters. For example, in Muranga and Nyeri Counties, the Mission’s Long-Term Observers (LTOs) witnessed clashes between the Jubilee Party and UDA supporters during campaign rallies resulting in violence, injuries and destruction of property. Further, the political use of criminal gangs to target political opponents by creating political zones of influence inhibited free campaigns, especially for women candidates.

Freedom of the press was constitutionally guaranteed and ensured. This was seen in practice during the electoral process as media outlets had the space to carry out their duties. However, the effect of misinformation and disinformation from social media platforms on peace and stability remains of concern among many stakeholders.

Kenya’s vibrant civil society monitors and observes key electoral processes, advocates for electoral reforms, and conducts civic and voter education campaigns. The Mission appreciated civil society’s role in the electoral process and in promoting peace and stability in the country. The Mission noted the active involvement of various civil society organisations in the electoral process. The Mission appreciates that CSOs also deployed observers and monitors throughout the electoral process.

The Joint AU-COMESA EOM visited 504 polling stations in 38 counties across the country to observe the opening, voting, closing and counting processes. Of these, 59% were in urban areas, and 41% were in rural areas. Overall, the atmosphere was largely peaceful. The election day operations were reasonably well-conducted and orderly, and professional. The polling staff mostly adhered to the polling procedures.

However, many polling stations observed by the Mission did not open and close on time. In some cases, the opening was delayed by more than two (2) hours. Some of the reasons for the delay include problems with the Kenyan Integrated Elections Management Systems (KIEMS) kit, the late arrival of polling staff and materials, and poor preparations of the polling stations.

Source: African Union

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