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Envoys urge calm, police restraint as Oct 17 poll beckons

Godec and EU envoys when they addressed the press outside the Bomas of Kenya National Tallying Centre/COURTESY

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 7- Heads of Foreign Missions in Kenya led by the US Ambassador Robert Godec and his UK counterpart Nic Hailey say even as the country prepares for a re-run of the presidential election, electoral violence remains a serious concern.

In a statement, the ambassadors have called on all political leaders to come out strongly and call for peace during and after the polls, set to be between incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA leader Raila Odinga.

While insisting on the need for Kenyans to be allowed to express their will freely including through peaceful protests, the envoys have urged police to avoid using excessive force while protecting lives and property.

“We are deeply troubled by the murder of Chris Msando and by the deaths and injuries we have seen in recent weeks. Kenyans have a right to peaceful protest, and no one should use or call for violence. We strongly urge the security services to avoid using excessive force and to protect lives and property,” they asserted.

Authorities led by the Independent Policing and Oversight Authority have been urged to probe crimes and reports of misconduct and prosecute those found culpable.

Right groups reports have accused police of using excessive force that led to the loss of lives during demonstrations by NASA supporters after President Kenyatta was declared the winner of August 8 election.

– Fake news peril –

With some 39 days to the polls, the ambassadors have further cautioned Kenyans against fake news.

“The coming presidential election also faces risks from fake news,” they cautioned.

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While fake news is a global phenomenon, the envoys say, “its impact here in Kenya is increasingly prominent and negative.

Fake news peddlers deliberately endanger their fellow citizens by playing to fears and stoking tensions. Everyone has the responsibility to reject lies and fabrications and to fact check. We should all seek authoritative clarification before spreading fake news further.”

Despite the Kenya Government vowing to crack down on those spreading fake news, nothing tangible has happened.

“Some of our missions -and some of us individually – have been the subject of fake stories and false attacks in this election period,” they regretted.

“We strongly reject these attempts to distort our work and our commitment to democracy. Our electoral assistance was requested by the Government of Kenya and conformed at all times with Kenyan law.”

They added that “at no time did we endorse or prefer any candidate or party. We never asked any candidate to concede. Instead, we encouraged candidates with complaints to go to the courts in accordance with Kenya’s Constitution, and we publicly welcomed their decision to do so.”

– Calls to support IEBC –

To ensure the polls are above board, the missions have called on all Kenyans, political players included to support the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

The court’s decision, they point out that it was a strong call to everyone, including the international community, “to reflect on how to make each election better than the last. As partners, we are doing so and we are ready to assist again.”

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Lately, the Supreme Court has come under scathing attack from politicians after the ruling annulling Kenyatta’s victory, but the envoys caution that the trend is not good for the country.

“If the right of all Kenyans to free, fair, and credible elections is to be realized, Kenya’s democratic institutions must do their job well and Kenyans should defend and give them due regard. This means supporting an independent Supreme Court and judiciary; all should respect justices doing their constitutionally-mandated work,” reads the statement.

The fresh presidential will be held on October 17.

In the annulled election, President Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party garnered 8,203,290 votes (54.27pc) against National Super Alliance (NASA) candidate Odinga’s 6,762,224 votes.

Campaigns are currently ongoing across all parts of the country.

Others envoys who were part of the joint statement include Mette Knudsen Ambassador of Denmark, FransMakken Ambassador of the Netherlands, Sara Hradecky High Commissioner for Canada

Fredrik Folkunger Chargé d’Affaires a.i, Sweden, Florian Gubler Chargé d’Affairesa.i, Switzerland and Victor Conrad Rønneberg Ambassador of Norway.

Others are Jutta Frasch Ambassador of Germany, TarjaFernández Ambassador of Finland, Kim Ramoneda Chargé d’Affairesa.i, France and Quinton Devlin Chargé d’Affaires, Australia.

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