By Jackie Kwanusu
At the onset of March 2022, IMLU recruited, trained and deployed 86 long-term monitors to monitor police conduct during public order management and human rights violations and electoral gender-based violence in 20 counties that were identified as possible hotspots. On the runners-up to the general election and additional 36 monitors were deployed in 21 counties identified as medium-risk counties, bringing the total number of counties being monitored to 41. The monitors played a crucial role in our report writing as their tremendous efforts in their reporting have been used extensively in our final elections report.
27 successful elections later since Kenyans first voted in 1920, 7 elections post multiparty democracy and 3 elections under the 2010 constitution dispensation, we are still battling electoral malpractices which in return lead to human rights violations, the more things change, the more they remain the same as human rights violations are known to be rampant during elections, the human rights violations occur in three stages; Before, During and After Elections with Post Election Violence Being the Deadliest and with that, IMLU was using the national post elections conference to harness the gains, lessons learnt and set the precedence for future monitoring work.
Despite being heralded as the most transparent and peaceful elections in recent times in our electoral history, questions still linger at the back of our minds more so with the elections taking place in an already suppressed security environment.
Guests were seated early enough for the day’s events to kick off, the chief guest Cannon Kinyanjui the Secretary General of the National Council of Churches of Kenya(NCCK)was the first to take to the podium, in his keynote address the Cannon commended Kenyans for upholding and participating in the 2022 elections peacefully, he expressed satisfaction with the pulpit messaging that religious leader had embraced to preach peace and cohesion, in his message the Canon noted that for us to continue to enjoy this peace that we have, we should foster collaborations and partnerships with concerted efforts towards the 2027 elections as we cannot afford to taint the current precedence where Kenya has been able to safeguard its place as a benchmark of democracy in Africa.
In the year 2022, IMLU documented 115 violent incidents in 41 counties with 21 serious human rights violations and 5 fatalities, the context under which these human rights violations were taking place are in the electoral context, and many people questioning the rampancy of human rights violations that are always on the increase during the electioneering period. The question of whether the absence of widespread, organized or systematic violence in an election is not equal to a peaceful election lingers in the minds of many as various actors in civil society organizations launch the reports of their election marking the culmination of the entire 2022 elections monitoring exercise.
IMLU did launch its elections report dubbed frontlines of democracy: safeguarding human rights in the 2022 elections. Invited guests from a pool of elections management bodies (EMB) were drawn from both the state actors and non-state actors, those present, could not help but recognize IMLU’s efforts in the fight against safeguarding human rights while protecting our civic space. The election is a cycle. Not an event. It’s therefore, time to start talking about election preparedness. We can’t wait till 2027 for from the just concluded election, we attribute the security forces being able to uphold the rule of law as a concerted effort of various actors, IMLU leading with community policing committees, Community dialogues and training of regional police commanders on public order management and human rights violations, the police were commended for a job well done of making sure that the environment was favourable for the voters to go out and vote, despite the environment being peaceful, voter apathy was observed with most youths staying away from voting which begs the question, is voting a must? And does my vote count? The majority of the youths interviewed, pointed out to their vote not necessarily counting and hence there’s no need to participate in this important constitutional process.
By the end of the launch, IMLU did put up a number of recommendations noting that there’s a need to secure the space for civic education from state interference while addressing the ever-shrinking civic space and also need to strengthen awareness on HR & eGBV and to remove barriers for victims & survivors’ access to justice and psychosocial support( PSS).