, NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 20 – The United States Government has dismissed claims that it is undertaking electoral programs illegally in Kenya.
US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec says the programs undertaken by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) are legal because the firm is fully registered under the Companies Act, contrary to claims by the NGOs Coordination Board which advised the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) to freeze its accounts.
“IFES is registered in Kenya under the Companies Act and has legal standing to conduct programs here,” Godec said in a statement, and went on to explain that “USAID provides elections assistance under our Development Assistance Grant Agreement with the Government of Kenya, which allows for the issuance of work permits for implementing partner staff, including IFES.”
According to Godec, the Kenya Electoral Assistance Program (KEAP) is being implemented following a request by the Kenyan Government and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and it adheres strictly to Kenyan law and regulations, and is provided under careful oversight by the Government of Kenya, IEBC, and USAID.
“We do this important work transparently without favoring any party or candidate,” Godec said.
The action by the NGOs Coordination Board followed remarks by President Uhuru Kenyatta at the Jamhuri Day celebrations when he warned that there was “money coming into Kenya from abroad in the guise of supporting good governance or civic education. However, its true intention is to influence our electoral choices.”
In his statement Tuesday, Godec said “We do this important work transparently without favoring any party or candidate.”
The ambassador said they are “disappointed by the attempt to discredit the United States’ efforts to assist Kenyans in the conduct of free, fair, peaceful, and credible elections in 2017.”
NGOs Cordination Board Executive Director Fazul Mahamed on Monday wrote to IFES, directing it to cease operations, while accusing it of operating illegally in Kenya with the support of USAID which has pumped in Sh2 billion for civic education programmes ahead of next year’s elections.
“The purpose of this communication therefore is to direct the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, IFES Kenya office to immediately cease all operations in the country including the implementation of the Kenya Electoral Assistance Program, KEAP 2017 that has been funded by USAID,” Mahamed said., a week after President Kenyatta warned that foreign powers were interfering with the country’s electoral process though programmes disguised as civic education.
In the letter, Mahamed accused USAID of engaging the American NGO that is not registered in Kenya as is required by law. All its staff were also said to be working in the country illegally because none of them had working permits.
Capital FM news has not independently established if IFES is indeed registered with the Registrar of Companies at Sheria House.
“I want to caution those members of the International Community taking these actions that the Kenyan people do not look kindly on such actions. I urge all Kenyans to reject such interference. This is our country, and no one should ever try and control our choices for their selfish interests,” the President had warned when he addressed Kenyans at the Jamhuri Day celebrations.
The action taken by the NGOs Coordination Board also prompted eleven other Heads of Mission in Kenya to respond in defence of international aid to Kenya.
The diplomats who included the Germany, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, European Union, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Finland and UK said their support to Kenya was aimed at ensuring that elections are held freely and fairly but not to influence the choice of Kenyans.
“We do not provide electoral assistance to any organisation, governmental or non-governmental, to influence the election results for any side, political party, or candidate. Rather, our assistance supports the Kenyan people to independently exercise their right to vote and have their voice heard. The Kenyan people alone have the sovereign right to choose their leaders, and we fully respect this right,” they stated in a joint statement issued on Tuesday.
According to IFES website, the NGO operates in Asia, Europe, Africa and among others America on issues on women’s empowerment, electoral integrity, participation and inclusion, research surveys and accountability.
Information available on IFES website shows that it has been working in Kenya since 2002 when it started by assisting the former Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) and then proceeded to give technical support to the Interim Independent Election Commission (IIEC) in 2010 which subsequently became the current IEBC.
It has since then been involved in supporting the commission to implement the electronic results transmission system, capacity building, civic education, oversight of political parties, dispute resolution geared at helping IEBC to conduct credible and free elections.