The re-run of Kenya’s presidential election after the Supreme Court invalidated the Aug. 8 vote for irregularities has exposed high-profile observer missions sent by The Carter Center, the European Union and others to allegations that they endorsed a faulty process with generally supportive reviews of what they witnessed on voting day. Last week’s surprise court ruling nullifying President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election has been called a first in Africa. Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who challenged the vote in court and claimed vote-rigging, turned his anger on observer missions, accusing them of moving quickly “to sanitize fraud.” He said their role should be examined. As Kenya wonders whether officials can get the election right a second time around, observer missions that included former Secretary of State John Kerry and former African leaders face criticism that they viewed the vote too narrowly and were inclined to favor the stability associated with the incumbent leader.
The observer missions have defended their work, saying they pointed out shortcomings in the election at the time and urged dissatisfied parties to take any grievances to court.
Even so, any missions that monitor the new election scheduled for Oct. 17 are likely to be more restrained to avoid a perception of rushing to judgment, some analysts say. “I think that they will be extremely cautious,” said Jonas Claes, a senior program officer at the United States Institute of Peace. He said he anticipates “a lot more neutral and bland statements.”
Odinga is pushing for changes to Kenya’s electoral commission and has said he won’t accept the new election date pending “legal and constitutional guarantees.” That adds to uncertainty in the East African nation whose economic potential and long-term stability bolster its profile on the continent.