Private sector and UN commit to support Kenya’s democratic process

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Election related conflicts along ethnic lines is the greatest threat to Africa’s stability and consolidation of democratic institutions and culture. It is with this in mind that on Wednesday, 14th December 2016, an important gathering organized by the UN and Africa Policy Institute, known as Maendeleo Policy Forum took place in Nairobi. And here is a snap shot of the conversations at the forum.

Few factors impact business growth more than the security and stability of the country in which it operates. The 2007 post-election violence brought this painfully reality to the bank accounts of many corporates in Kenya, with the country’s GDP growth rate which stood at 7pc in 2007 tanking to 1.7pc the following year.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga at the 38th anniversary of the late founding President Jomo Kenyatta told all Kenyans that they must unite and not let political differences divide them. This was clear and unequivocal message by the two leaders.

The recent Leadership Summit on Competitiveness, Nationhood and Peaceful Elections convened by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and Parliament was therefore a welcome opportunity to consider how the private sector can support the country’s preparation for next year’s General Election. The meeting included members of both houses of parliament, political parties, government, civil society, religious leaders, development partners and independent commissions.

At this event President Uhuru Kenyatta assured all Kenyans of peaceful and credible elections.

Recent statistics show an increase of insecurity across the country, from incidents of armed banditry, violent cattle rustling, election-related violence and incendiary political speeches.

These indicate the timeliness of the Kwale summit and explain the pertinence of the subject in the minds of the more than 500 participants from government, business and the development community who attended the summit.

Being the largest and most diversified economy in East Africa, Kenya has experienced steady economic growth and political stability since the 2013 elections, which were largely hailed as the most credible and peaceful since the return to multiparty democracy in the early 1990s.

In 2013, Kenya’s economy grew by 5.7pc, in 2014 by 5.3pc, in 2015 by 5.5pc. The African Development Bank expects Kenya’s GDP growth prospects for 2016 and 2017 to be 6.0pc and 6.4pc, respectively.

Not surprisingly, reports indicate that the election period 2013 had the least downward impression on Kenya’s economic growth. In the five previous election years, Kenya’s economy shrunk by about 0.8pc. Clearly, investors will always adopt a collective wait-and-see attitude and whenever election-related belligerence rears its head.

Driven in part by low international oil prices, a supportive macro-economic policy framework, high investment in infrastructural development and enhanced agricultural production, Kenya’s economy has remained strong since 2013, outpacing many other sub-Saharan Africa countries.

According to Foreign Direct Investment monitoring platform FDI Markets, the City of Nairobi has for the last two consecutive years edged out Johannesburg as the top destination of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in Africa, signalling growing investor confidence in the country’s economic direction.

Kenya has recently hosted a number of high-profile international conventions, a contrast to the years when terrorism-related travel advisories blunted Kenya’s image and drove the tourism sector to virtual collapse.

The recent KEPSA submit crystallized a few things which are worth looking into in order to ensure the next elections in 2017 help rather hinder the political and socio-economic progress.

The summit called for commitment to constitutionalism, rule of law, efficiency and accountability from the security sector, the judiciary and other agencies responsible for the administration of justice. For elections to be credible and their results legitimate, the legal framework for elections must be clear and predictable and the electoral management bodies must be autonomous, professional and well-resourced.

In addition, the socio-political environment must be free of polarisation and incitement to violence; political parties must be democratic and inclusive; the media must be independent and civil society vibrant.

KEPSA and the UN are committed to a broad-based dialogue among key electoral stakeholders to support credible and peaceful elections. That dialogue should be held extended to the community level and must include all stakeholders including marginalised communities. This resonates with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) principle of leaving no one behind.

Through its Mkenya Daima campaign, KEPSA will be implementing a campaign blitz across the country in a mission to urge Kenyans to elect leaders with integrity and who value peace, unity and development. This is in keeping with the UN Charter and the Declaration of Human rights and expressed in regional and international treaties and for Kenya, forming an integral part of our Bill of Rights.

The United Nations will continue to partner with the people of Kenya throughout the process of democratic governance. True to this partnership, the UN in Kenya advances the inter-related perspectives of development, peace and security, and respect for human rights, none of which can exist in isolation.

The KEPSA Summit was the beginning, not the end, of a robust and sustained national dialogue for credible and peaceful elections. Indeed, the Mkenya Daima campaign is not a flash-in-the pan engagement. KEPSA and the UN are guided by the National Business Agenda 2013-2018, and the association is determined to play its role in assuring not only a peaceful election but assuring inclusive, sustainable and equitable growth for the people of Kenya.

The involvement of the UN and the private sector is not just driven by our duty as critical and trusted partners in Kenya’s human and economic development, but also as a responsible investment strategy for assured business survival.

(Ambassador Awori is the Chairman of KEPSA and Chatterjee the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya).

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