, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 12 – Electoral chiefs from the East African Community meeting in the country have urged the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission to ensure that March 4 general election is conducted in a credible manner to promote democracy and governance.
EAC Deputy Secretary General in-charge of Political Federation Julius Rotich said the country must take all steps to ensure it avoid the pit falls of 2007 that led to the post-election violence which paralysed operations in the country and trade within the five-member bloc.
“You cannot do anything if don’t have proper elections. If you look back at what happened during 2007-2008 we were paralysed, and we would really like to avoid such situations in any partner states.”
“If there is disruption to any of the partner states then the whole community is disrupted.”
Electoral chiefs from Rwanda and Burundi also shared their experiences in handling polls and urged the poll agency to include the political class, women and youth groups in their civic and voter education programmes.
Burundi’s Independent Electoral Commission chairman Pierre Claver Ndayicariye cautioned the IEBC against allowing politicians to manipulate the polling process.
“Democracy in our region is not suffering because of simple populations. Democracy and elections in our region are suffering mainly because of political party leaders, especially those who don’t understand the real meaning of political competition,” said the head of the Burundian poll agency.
Rwandan National Electoral Commission Executive Secretary Charles Munyaneza said the IEBC should also focus on urbanites and academics because they often misinform the rural folk who view them as opinion leaders.
He said education programmes should be a cross the board and touch even the decision makers and politicians that participate in the electoral process.
“These politicians are also part of the society; they are not imported from anywhere else. We also disregard those people in the capitals and political parties but sometimes those are the people who cause problems,” said Munyaneza.
They were speaking during a meeting of experts on the EAC principles for elections observation and evaluation.
At the same time, Rotich said the community will monitor Kenya’s elections.
Rotich said EAC is committed to promoting democratic governance through the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in the partner states.
He said EAC will standardise election observation and evaluation in the region.
He added that EAC will give necessary support to Kenya’s electoral body.
“The development of the draft EAC Principles of Election Observation and Evaluation is a positive move towards having a common regional instrument for assessing the legitimacy and credibility of elections in the region,” Rotich said.
He said the conclusion and endorsement of the draft principles will enable EAC Election Observation Mission to pre-test and pilot them during Kenya’s elections.
Tanzania’s Registrar of Political Parties John Tendwa said EAC countries have to enhance democratic elections “as we are in a fragile region.”
The meeting which ends on November 16, is meant to enable regional electoral chiefs to learn preparedness and challenges relating to the upcoming general elections and consider planned activities towards the EAC Election Observation Mission to Kenya.