At 5 AM on August 8, delegates participating in NDI’s international election observation mission (IEOM) to the Kenyan elections were on their way to poll openings in 13 counties across the nation. They were hardly the first to arrive. Already, long lines of voters had formed overnight in many places, patiently waiting to cast their ballot for Kenya’s future. As delegation co-leader Rep. Karen Bass (CA) put it, “The Kenyan people have a lot to be proud of. I’d give anything to have a turnout like that back home.”
The Kenyan people have a lot to be proud of. I’d give anything to have a turnout like that back home.
-Rep. Karen Bass
In the dim early morning light, NDI’s international observers were warmly greeted by Kenyan voters. “The mood on Election Day was very positive. There were welcoming smiles. Babies on the backs of their mothers had their fingers inked. It was a pleasure to observe,” said co-leader Christine Todd Whitman.
Long lines gathered outside polling stations, ready to cast their vote after waiting for hours in the dark.
Two days after the polls closed, international observer missions broadly praised the electoral process. NDI’s delegation issued its preliminary statement, which noted, “The people of Kenya made their voices heard in a peaceful fashion through credible election processes on August 8. The Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) delivered well-managed polls, even though it faced serious challenges in the few months it had leading to the vote. Late openings in many polling places contributed to waits but did not appear to dent the voters’ resolve. Electronic voter check-in technology worked smoothly in the vast majority of polling places, and election officials worked long hours with determination to carry out their duties according to law.” The statement also noted problems in the electronic transmission of results and, as a means of addressing them, called for all tally sheets to be made available in a timely manner as part of the prescribed IEBC results tabulation process.
Ambassador Abdullahi, Rep. Bass, and former Governor Whitman have their observer vests and checklists at hand on Election Day.
Subsequently, the IEBC announced the official results, which gave President Uhuru Kenyatta a margin of 54.3 percent and opposition leader, Raila Odinga, 44.7 percent. The Elections Observation Group (ELOG), which has received technical assistance from NDI, deployed over 8,000 Kenyan observers on Election Day and announced that its Partial Vote Tabulation (PVT) nearly matched the totals of the IEBC. The opposition charged that the election was stolen, though the major international and Kenyan election observation efforts did not see reason to question the outcome and called on those with grievances to turn to the courts.
Unfortunately, the calm on election day did not last. As soon as the IEBC announced the official results, violence broke out and opposition supporters clashed with police in several locations around the country. In the initial confrontations, reports from credible sources noted that approximately 24 people were killed. These lamentable developments, unfortunately, indicate potential for further post-election violence, which serve as a reminder that over 1,000 people were killed and 600,000 were displaced following Kenya’s 2007 disputed elections. Key Kenyan and international interlocutors are actively urging the country’s leadership, political parties, and the Kenyan people to find a path to resolve their differences without resorting to further violence.
The NDI delegation deplores any violence inside or outside the electoral process. NDI will continue to monitor and to engage with Kenyans working to ensure the integrity of their democratic process.
-NDI co-leader Justice Yvonne Mokgoro
Anticipating a difficult and contested outcome, NDI’s delegation statement implored political parties and candidates to “publicly and vigorously encourage supporters to refrain from any acts of violence and/or intimidation” and to “seek redress for electoral complaints through proper legal channels and abide by the outcomes of judicial proceedings.”
From left to right: NDI delegation co-leaders Rep. Karen Bass (CA), Ambassador Aisha Abdullahi, and Justice Yvonne Mokgoro
NDI’s international and bipartisan mission included 30 delegates from 12 countries and was led in alphabetical order by:
- Dr. Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, Former Commissioner for Political Affairs, African Union
- U.S. Representative Karen Bass, Ranking Member, Africa Subcommittee, House Foreign Affairs Committee
- Professor Attahiru Jega, Former Chairman, Independent National Election Commission of Nigeria
- Dr. Keith Jennings, NDI Senior Associate and Regional Director for Southern and East Africa Programs
- Pat Merloe, NDI Senior Associate and Director for Election Programs
- Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, Former Judge, Constitutional Court of South Africa
- Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Former Governor of New Jersey
NDI is grateful to the support of USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy for the support provided to conduct its IOM to the Kenyan elections.