The Kenyan elections are instructive for Guyana

Dear Editor,

The results of the Kenyan elections have been annulled by the Supreme Court of Kenya. It is a signal victory for Opposition Leader Raila Odinga. Odinga had contested four consecutive elections in the past but claimed that he was cheated of victory on every occasion.

Following the declaration of election results the opposition had filed an election petition challenging those results and called for fresh elections to be held. According to the official results announced by the Kenyan Elections Commission, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party won 54.3 % of the votes cast while Odinga’s National Super Alliance won 44.8 %.

In a matter of just two weeks the elections petition was heard and a ruling cancelling the elections results was made by the Supreme Court of Kenya comprising six judges. The Supreme Court ruling is a big embarrassment for the foreign observers, including the Carter Center team led by former US Secretary of State John Kerry, the African Union team led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the Commonwealth team led by former Ghanaian President John Mahama and other foreign observers who travelled to Kenya to observe the elections and claimed it was free and fair.

The Supreme Court decision is an indictment of the Kenyan Elections Commission. The ruling has brought the commission into disrepute and calls have been made for its members to be prosecuted and brought before the courts for electoral crimes committed against the people of Kenya.

Of great significance in the history of Kenyan jurisprudence is the ruling of the Supreme Court which deemed the elections results “null and void due to massive irregularities.” Kenyans had lost confidence in the court as an institution for dispensing justice. Many expected the Supreme Court to go with the flow and to maintain the status quo, but according to Odinga: “The Supreme Court ruling set a precedent, [it] is historic and a triumph for Kenyans.” The court ruled that fresh elections are to be held in six months.

Of great importance was the observation made by the Opposition Leader that the “gathering of the evidence was critical for the presentation of a credible case. Ten days before the elections the IT expert attached to the Kenyan Elections Commission was murdered under questionable circumstances. The opposition believed that his death marked the beginning of elections rigging by hacking into the electronic voting system. Tallying and transmission of the results were areas where considerable fraud was committed.

The elections in Kenya are instructive for Guyanese elections watchers. First, there is the need to always bear in mind our own experiences with elections. Second, there is the need for zero tolerance in relation to electoral malpractices;

Third it is important to recognise that elections is a process beginning from the selection of the Chairman of Gecom and ensuring the independence of the commission. Then fourth there is the selection of elections officials; the registration of electors and their preparation; the verification of the voters’ list; the casting of ballots; the transmission of the tally sheets; the counting of votes at the place of poll and the transmission and reliability of the data on the tally sheets.

Foreign observers should not consider the casting of votes at the place of poll as the single most important criterion for validating elections as free and fair. In addition, the introduction of voting machines together with the tallying and transmission of votes cast electronically in a country where elections were never held in that way before is fraught with grave challenges if not dangers. There is the need too for the opposition party contesting elections to have smart, strong and knowledgeable polling agents at each polling station capable of recording accurate and reliable data and irregular occurrences as these will have future evidential value. The independence of and the non-interference in the judiciary is important, but there is a problem with the slothfulness of the court system here in Guyana. In Kenya it took only two weeks to hear an election petition and dispense justice, but here in Guyana it is more than two years now since an elections petition was filed in court. Justice delayed is justice denied. Both Kenya and Guyana are Commonwealth countries.

Yours faithfully,

Clement J Rohee

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