UK High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey and Irish Ambassador Dr Vincent O’Neill have joined fellow diplomats in signing a statement ahead of the new Presidential election on Thursday.
In the statement, released on Monday, the diplomats said that the solutions to the challenges currently facing Kenya must be found in its Constitution and that attempts to change the law late in the electoral process were ‘not helpful’, calling on President Kenyatta not to sign the electoral law amendments.
They added that they respect the decisions of NASA candidates Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoko to withdraw their candidacies but called for an end to attacks on Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) staff.
Tensions are high in Kenya, as the UK’s High Commissioner found out over the weekend when he found himself caught up in a Twitter storm.
You can read the statement in full below:
As friends, we want Kenya to succeed. We share with Kenyans their desire for a peaceful, prosperous, democratic, and well-governed country, where everyone can build a better life for themselves and their families. Indeed, we know Kenyans have fought for these things with great courage, as we were reminded powerfully on Mashujaa Day. All the nations that we represent have had their struggles in building democracy. Kenya is one of the international family of democracies.
Holding a successful new presidential election, as ordered by the Supreme Court on September 1, will help Kenya achieve these goals. Unfortunately, the deteriorating political environment is undermining preparations for the new presidential election. Inflammatory rhetoric, attacks on institutions, and growing insecurity all make holding a credible and fair poll more difficult. IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati and former Commissioner Roselyn Akombe raised serious concerns that deserve attention and require action. Kenyans – and particularly Kenya’s politicians – should be careful not to destroy things built over years of hard work and sacrifice. It is easier to tear down than to build up. But it is dangerous, and it must stop.
This is particularly true for the Constitution. Kenya’s Constitution is remarkable, and it enshrines fundamental values and guarantees the rights of citizens. It came out of a period of deep pain for the country. Many of today’s politicians and leaders had crucial roles in drafting it and explaining it to the Kenyan people.
Solutions to Kenya’s current challenges must be found in its Constitution, not outside it. Only the Constitution guarantees rights and justice for all, and can build a country that is fair for everyone, not just those with wealth and power. This election must be held in accord with the Constitution and laws, as interpreted by the courts. Attempts to change the law at the last moment are also not helpful, and we call again on President Kenyatta not to sign the electoral law amendments that are now on his desk.
While time is now extremely brief, we again urge all parties to engage in serious dialogue with the IEBC and to cease any interference in its operation. Following the Supreme Court decision, the IEBC has made changes in personnel and procedures that address many of the concerns raised and that strengthen its technical ability to conduct an election. We urge all parties to work collaboratively and in good faith on any additional changes that will further strengthen this essential institution and allow the best possible election.
We respect the right of NASA candidates Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka to withdraw their candidacies, but regret their decision. We have been engaged in efforts to find a way that will encourage them to rejoin, and continue to hope they will do so in light of the progress made at the IEBC and our shared commitment to the democratic electoral process. The new election must be carried out in accordance with the Constitution and court order, but it is vital that it be credible and be held in a competitive, peaceful, and participatory environment.
Respect for the law is vital for every Kenyan. Once again, we strongly urge the security services to protect the rights of demonstrators and to use minimum force when seeking to protect lives and property. We believe it is essential that police supervisors and officers who commit wrong-doing be prosecuted and punished. Similarly, while demonstrators have a right to have their voice heard, they must do so peacefully and with full respect for others’ welfare and property.
Attacks on IEBC staff must cease now. No-one is obliged to stand for office, or to vote if they do not wish to. But no-one should use violence or intimidation to disrupt the right of others to vote or to participate. Doing so is profoundly undemocratic, and leaders must tell their supporters to refrain from such actions.
In the coming days, the whole world will be watching Kenya and its every step in this electoral process. In particular, we are following closely the actions of leaders and politicians. Those who incite violence or undermine democracy should be held to account for their actions.
Kenyans are fortunate in having the right to choose their leaders. This is one of the great things about being a Kenyan. Not everyone in the world enjoys this right, and it is precious. When this election is held, Kenyans may choose to vote or not; to support whichever candidate they choose, or none; to express their views peacefully to whomever will listen, in whatever forum they think best. Now and after the election, we urge Kenyans to renew and redouble their national dialogue about how to unite the country, end ethnic and tribal conflict, and allow everyone to share in the country’s bounty.
Above all, in the days ahead, we urge Kenyans to choose Kenya – to work in word and deed for the common good of this great country. We stand with you in that important work.
Joining Mr Hailey and Dr O’Neill in putting their names to the statement are: Bob Godec (United States Ambassador), Mette Knudsen (Ambassador of Denmark), Jutta Frasch (Ambassador of Germany), Anna Jardfelt (Ambassador of Sweden), Ralf Heckner (Ambassador of Switzerland), Mauro Massoni (Ambassador of Italy), Frans Makken (Ambassador of the Netherlands), Tarja Fernandez (Ambassador of Finland), Antoine Sivan (Ambassador of France), Nicholas Nihon (Ambassador of Belgium), Frantisek Dlhopolcek (Ambassador of Slovakia), Harald Gunther (Ambassador of Austria), Pavel Rezac (Ambassador of the Czech Republic), Quinton Devlin (Deputy High Commissioner of Australia), Javier Garcia de Viedma Bernaldo de Quiros (Ambassador of Spain) and Luisa Fragoso (Charge d’Affaires Portugal).