The Commonwealth has announced the appointment of Botswana’s former President, Festus Mogae, to lead its observer group for Kenya’s upcoming general elections.
The 20-person Group will be in Kenya for the August 9 polls at the invitation of the country’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and follows a visit by a Commonwealth pre-election assessment team back in April.
In a press release sent to newsrooms, members comprising the 20-person group include Dr Anne Gallagher (Director-General, Commonwealth Foundation, Australia), Mr Darrell Bradley (Former Mayor of Belize City, Belize), Dr Simon Munzu (Former UN Deputy Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon), Hon Halifa Sallah (Former National Assembly Member, Gambia), Mr Jerald Joseph (Former Human Rights Commissioner, Malaysia), Dr Evarist Bartolo (Former Foreign Minister, Malta), and Hon Maryan Street (Former Minister of Housing, New Zealand).
Additionally, Ms Idayat Hassan (Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, Nigeria), Prof Attahiru Jega (Former Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Nigeria), Ms Nighat Dad (Founder and Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan), Mrs Marcella Samba-Sesay (Chairperson, National Election Watch, Sierra Leone), Professor Mandla Mchunu (Former Chief Election Officer, South Africa), Dr Victor Shale (Elections and governance Expert, South Africa), and Mrs Fern Narcis-Scope (Chief Election Officer, Elections and Boundaries Commission Trinidad and Tobago) make part of the group.
“Further, Justice James Ogoola (Former Principal Judge of the High Court, Uganda), Ms Zeinab Badawi (Broadcaster and President of School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom), Baroness Denise Kingsmill (Member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom), Mr Mark Stephens CBE (Lawyer, United Kingdom), and Dr Chaloka Beyani (Professor of Law, London School of Economics, Zambia) finalize the team expected in the country,” the statement read.
Announcing the team in London, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said election observation is an essential component of Commonwealth’s efforts to support member countries to strengthen the processes, culture, and institutions of democracy, and to enable citizen participation and representation at all levels.
“I am grateful to President Mogae and all observers for accepting this important assignment, as we continue to promote and protect electoral democracy – and the right of individuals to participate in processes which shape their societies through credible, inclusive, and transparent elections – in line with the Commonwealth Charter,” she said
Ahead of the Group’s arrival, an advance team from the Commonwealth will arrive on 16 July to meet key stakeholders, including the election management body, political parties, civil society groups, media, and other international observers.
According to the statement, the team will travel across the country to build a comprehensive picture on the conduct of the process and to observe the campaign and the electoral preparations.
“The Chair and observers have been given the mandate to observe and consider the factors affecting the credibility of the electoral process as a whole and to judge whether elections have been conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Kenya has committed itself, including legislation and relevant regional, commonwealth and international commitments,” the statement revealed.
The Commonwealth Observer Group will arrive in Nairobi on August 2, 2022 and will be supported by a team from the Commonwealth Secretariat, led by the Deputy Secretary-General Dr Arjoon Suddhoo.
By Michael Omondi