By Janet Sankale and Mary Wasike
Several civil society groups and human rights defenders are pushing for transparent and accountable electoral and political processes in Kenya, as well as citizens’ active participation ahead of the 2022 elections.
“Kenyans must come together yet again to demand that the principles of democracy and rule of law be adhered to by actively participating in the upcoming 2022 elections and electoral processes,” the organisations under the umbrella of The Angaza Movement (TAM) said in a statement. “Angaza” is Kiswahili for “give light”, “illuminate”.
They expressed concern that as the country prepared for the elections, Kenyans have suffered doubly because of the Covid-19 pandemic. They listed the negative effects to the economy, human rights violations, and diminished civic spaces among the ills of government-enforced measures to contain the virus.
However, the movement urged Kenyans to continue demanding their rights, especially during the elections.
“For the citizens’ vote to count, transparent, accountable, credible, free, and fair elections must be guaranteed,” TAM, which calls itself “a national and grassroots grouping of active citizens and human rights activists”, said.
Several speakers during the movement’s launch in Nairobi said 18 organisations had come together to support civic participation, enhance electoral integrity, and transform political leadership in Kenya.
“The Angaza Movement’s aim is to highlight governance issues starting with the 2022 general elections,” Davis Malombe, Executive Director of Kenya Human Rights Commission, explained.
Betty Okero, Team Leader at Civil Society Organisation Network, expressed concern at the spectre of violence that has for past electoral cycles come to characterise voting in the country.
“Elections should be liberating and enhance dignity as a bare minimum. As we approach the 2022 elections, we should do better,” she said.
The Angaza Movement proposes to focus on five issues in its efforts to ensure integrity, transparency, accountability, credibility, free and fair elections, and effective leadership.
At the top of its agenda are past unresolved electoral and political injustices, for which victims have received no redress and perpetrators of the violations have not been held to account by courts of law or other accountability mechanisms.
The movement asked the judiciary to fast-track all pending cases for victims of electoral injustices and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to enhance investigation of electoral offences.
To enhance electoral integrity for political leadership, Angaza urged Parliament to enact legislation to regulate the use of funds by politicians during campaigns in order to deter bribery of voters. The movement undertook to support leaders and processes that support political integrity.
It demanded that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and other public agencies regulating the electoral environment and that security agencies carry out their duties in an accountable and legitimate manner.
It objected to the continued presence of officials linked to electoral malpractices in past electoral cycles.
“Ezra Chiloba, CEO of the Communications Authority of Kenya; Immaculate Kassait, Commissioner, Office of Data Protection Commission; James Muhati, CEO of Huduma Kenya; and Anne Nderitu, Registrar of Political Parties, who were alleged to have been involved in subverting the will of the people in the 2017 General Election, be removed from their positions and replaced with persons without past integrity questions,” The Angaza Movement demanded.
The organisations expressed concern about the voter register, which they said had in the past been mismanaged for the express purpose of obtaining certain predetermined electoral results. They urged IEBC to outline to the public the reforms it has undertaken to eliminate illegalities in the voter register; roll out a robust civic and voter education programme to ensure citizens understand the electoral processes and the need to participate; and protect Kenyans’ right to vote by ensuring that polling stations are accessible.
The electoral management body was also asked to ensure that the procurement of electoral technology meets legal requirements, and to publicly share information on the providers.
The security agencies and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission were asked to “…ensure negative and divisive political narratives and mobilisation for violence are addressed and perpetrators held accountable”.
To protect women, girls, boys, and men against “normalised” political, physical, and psychological violence, including rape, gang rape, sexual assault, and defilement, TAM demanded that existing guidelines on the management of sexual violence be implemented, and that security agencies and political parties protect women against all forms of political violence by guaranteeing a safe electoral environment.
“The presence of violence is an indictment on the security sector and electoral management bodies, and a sign of the absence of an environment that advances free and fair elections,” the movement said.