, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 16 – International donors have pledged support for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission as it begins preparations to conduct next year’s general elections.
The donors have pledged to foot at least 10 percent of the electoral budget in preparation for the 2012 polls.
British High Commissioner Peter Tibber who is the joint chair of the donor groups on Wednesday said it was their priority to ensure fair and democratic elections in Kenya to avoid a repeat of chaos witnessed in the country in 2008 when violence broke out, leading to the deaths of at least 1,500 people.
“There is hardly a more important task in any democratic society than laying proper preparations to conduct credible elections,” said the British High Commissioner. “For my country, helping Kenya to prepare for credible elections is our priority.”
He was speaking at an introductory meeting that the new electoral body held for development partners and stakeholders. The meeting was attended by representatives from UNDP, Denmark, UK, Japan and the US who promised to compliment the efforts of the Kenya government in financing the polls.
Donors said civic education and training of personnel involved in managing elections would be important to avoid mistakes that led to the 2008 post-poll skirmishes.
IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan called on the assistance of donors to fill budget gaps to ensure voter sensitisation on constitutional provisions as well as carrying out the entire exercise.
“But this time, you’ll excuse us if our demands are a little higher. We believe that with your kind and generous support, you’ll be able to help us in filling up these funding gaps.”
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has just replaced the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC).
Zephaniah Aura, a senior election advisor at USAID has pledged to continue working with the new team and has assured that his organisation will match up to 10 percent of the budget that will be allocated by the government.
He said: “We will help the commission in financing staff training as well as party agents for proper election management ahead of the elections.”
“Other activities will involve supporting domestic observers and the media for accurate and fair coverage of the elections,” said the USAID official.
Outgoing chairman of the donor group and Danish Ambassador Geert Aagaard Anderson urged the commission to avoid being dragged into the political games which might bring its independent status to question.
In its exit report, the IIEC indicated that increasing the number of staff to the required 898, installing of electronic voter registration, survey of political parties, proper financing and the study of best ways of holding multiparty elections could help avoid skirmishes that arose after the disputed 2007 elections.
At the same time the commission has got down to work just a day after it took office, stating that they have finalised a standard civic and voter education curriculum which will be used to sensitise Kenyans ahead of next year’s elections.
Hassan says they intend to work closely with civil society groups to conduct the process which is aimed at sensitising Kenyans on their rights and how to participate in the process under the new Constitution.
The IEBC said it would draft rules to guide their collaboration with NGOs involved in voter education.
Hassan and the commission’s Chief Electoral Officer James Oswago assured the stakeholders that the body will conduct what he termed as a ‘world class election process’.
Oswago stated: “We as an electoral management body will work with the date that we are given whenever those elections will be called we shall deliver a world class election.”
“Despite all the worries that I have my comfort is that we have a fully professional commission, but even a professional secretariat cannot perform miracles. We should be careful not to overload and stress the secretariat, because when you load a plane in excess of its weight it may not take off or before it takes off it will crash before it flies off,” Hassan cautioned.
Kenya is set to hold monumental election next year but there is already contention whether the polls should be conducted in August or December.