Observer group calls for talks to avert political crisis in Kenya

The U.S.-based observer group Carter Center on Wednesday called on Kenya’s political leaders to engage in constructive talks to help avert the political crisis in the country following the Oct. 26 presidential elections.

Such talks will help bridge the gap between the opposition and ruling parties, and their respective supporters, following a tense electoral period that has polarized the country, according to the Carter Center.

“Rather than consolidating support for a national political program, the election polarized the country and exposed the deep tribal and ethnic rifts that have longed characterized its politics,” the group said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

The opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew from the repeat presidential poll but his name was retained in the ballot.

Odinga had argued that the mistakes that brought about the annulment of the Aug. 8 vote was most likely to be repeated because reforms have not been taken at the electoral body, including the resignations of staffers who bungled the August general elections.

The opposition leader later urged the Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission (IEBC) to postpone the repeat polls in light of the ongoing political turmoil and disagreements among the stakeholders, urging his supporters to stay away from the repeat exercise.

Odinga later announced the formation of a national resistance movement that will exert pressure on the government to promote rule of law, electoral reforms and human rights.

Odinga said economic boycott, picketing and formation of a grassroots movement will underpin his quest for justice in the electoral system as well as political inclusivity.

Last week, he urged his supporters to boycott products of three companies they accused of working with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government to defeat electoral justice in recent polls.

In its statement, The Carter Center said the fresh presidential election unfolded in a context of heightened tensions stemming from the protracted electoral process, confrontational tactics and harsh verbal attacks by key political leaders, and outbursts of violence around election day.

“These problems severely undermined the ability of Kenya’s electoral and judicial institutions to implement the fresh presidential elections,” it said.

According to the observer group, the actions of political leaders have served to weaken its democratic and independent institutions, constrain the ability of citizens to participate in the civic affairs of their country, and damage the nation’s democratic development.

“In the days ahead, it is incumbent on political leaders to put personal agendas aside and take steps to heal the country while maintaining the country’s constitutional order,” it said.

The center which sent a core team of experts in Kenya since April, monitoring key parts of the electoral process, including voter registration, campaigning, electoral preparations, and the recent resolution of disputes in the courts, promised to release a comprehensive statement on the overall election process after its completion in early 2018.

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