Elections and Post-election Violence in Kenya - Dissertation Proposal Example

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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Dissertation proposal
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Kenya is considered to be a relatively peaceful and politically stable country in comparison to most African countries. However, whenever the country holds its general election, which is conducted after every five years (with the exception of the 2017 elections that were conducted after four years from the previous election), there have been reports of violence in different parts of the country (particularly in the opposition parties stronghold regions), which is considered to be a threat in relation to the country's peace and political stability. Kenya held its first multi-party general elections in 1992, and it was marred by election irregularities, voter intimidation, and violence after the results were reported by the then Election Commission of Kenya (ECK), which was later on reformed to the Independent Election Board Commission (IEBC). In the subsequent elections, similar issues have been observed and reported mainly by the country's media, and non-governmental organizations.

It is important to point out that elections play an integral role in the democratic process of any country. The reason for this is that it provides the citizens of a country with the opportunity to express their sovereign will, and elect the leaders that they want to govern them. Elections also play an important role in terms of cultivating peace, stability, security, and development of a nation. The reason for this is that; most people in the society will feel that they have exercised their right and elected leaders who are competent to fulfill the needs of the country in their different capacities of leadership.

Since the inception of multiparty general elections in Kenya in 1992, elections (especially the presidential results) have always been disputed, and this has led to post-election violence leading to the death of thousands of people, displacement of people, and security concerns in various parts of the country. The best documented post-election violence was, after the 2007 elections in which there were reports of electoral manipulation, and it led to the political, economic and humanitarian crisis in the country. It took the intervention of the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who acted as a mediator during the negotiations, and the formation of the first coalition government in the country to end the violence. The reason why there are reported irregularities after each of the elections that have been held in the country is due to various contributing factors such as a weak rule of law, criminal justice system, and failure of the IEBC to conduct presidential elections in accordance with the constitution, election laws and regulations. In addition to that, there is the stakeholder involvement (mainly the incumbent government) in the election process has ensured that no election that has been held (in Kenya) can be considered to be free, fair, and credible.

A source of concern in relation to the elections that have been held in Kenya is that they have all been witnessed by international observers from various organizations in different parts of the world. Ironically, these election monitors who always observe the whole election process (before, during, and after elections) have always stated in their reports that the elections were conducted in a free and fair process. This is always in contrast with the views held by some of the contestants and a majority of the citizens (a case in point the August 8th, 2017 General Elections in Kenya). In this election, international observers from various organizations such as the African Union, the Commonwealth Nations, and US-based Carter Center in their report endorsed the results of the August 8th, 2017 elections as free and fair. In a statement that was provided by the former US secretary of state John Kerry, who was the head of the Carter Centers observers who were deployed in Kenya praised the election process, and stated that it was a free, fair and credible process. He, however, added on that there were few irregularities in different parts of the country but pointed out clearly that they did not or could not affect the overall election results. However, the countrys Supreme Court nullified the elections in September citing various irregularities before, during, and after the election process.

This begs the question; is the failure of election monitors in the role of observing the credibility and integrity of the election process in young democracies such as Kenya a source of conflict and political instability? I hope that this research dissertation will point out the key issues that have contributed to the election observers to fail to monitor the election processes in an effective manner. I also hope that this dissertation will make considerable contributions in terms of the development of new toolkits, and benchmarks that international observers can use in fragile democracies such as the ones in Kenya. For instance, the use of the biometric voter registration and results transmission system by the electoral body will ensure that the election is considered to be more transparent, and therefore ensure credibility of the process. Even though the IEBC has tried to use these new technologies in the past two elections, there are always technicality issues that make them resort back to the manual system, which can easily be rigged. Also, the use of these technologies makes it easier for the election observers to fulfill their role of monitoring the elections, and they will make more valid reports in future in regards to the process. They can be able to determine if there was voter rigging in certain areas of the country by monitoring the live-stream results as they are being projected by the different local broadcasters in Kenya. I also hope that I will gain enough skills that I will use to evaluate and also undertake an analysis of international observers of democratic elections in the coming years.


Since the late 1990s, international observation of elections has become a common occurrence to the point that refusing to admit monitors is concluded to be an outright admission of election fraud. Even when autocratic leaders such as Russias Vladimir Putin and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe conduct elections in their countries, they regularly invite international monitors ( Lynge-Mangueira, 2012). Historically, the first international election observation process was carried out in 1857, when several European countries sent monitors for observation purpose in the referendum that ultimately united Moldavia and Wallachia forming the present day Romania. In recent times, Costa Rica has been credited as the first country to invite international observers mainly from the Organization of American States to monitor their elections, which was conducted in 1962 (Hyde & Marinov, 2014). The dramatic increase regarding election monitoring began after the fall or collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, international monitors, observe approximately 80% of all the conducted elections, which is around a 50%, up from 30% before the collapse of the Soviet Union (Hyde & Marinov, 2014).

The role of the international observers in any election is so that they can ensure that the process was conducted credibly and integrally. There are some goals that the election monitors hope to achieve when they go to observe an election (Mapuva, 2013). Some of the goals include: they are there to ensure that the citizens have been engaged in the election process, to deter any actions of fraud, expose any irregularities and problems that they observed in the election that they were monitoring. They are also there to provide an accurate measure about the quality of the election, promote confidence in the process, and provide any recommendations regarding improving the process for the upcoming election.

Even though each of the organization that participates in the observation of the election process uses its strategies and procedures depending on the local conditions of a particular country; they typically follow a certain set of standards that were devised by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in 1996. This committee published a manual that can be used to observe elections and it has been broken down into four stages. The first stage is that the observers ought to study the election law in the country where they will be monitoring the election process. Secondly, they need to send long-term observers in advance so that they can speak with the government officials, various party leaders, members of the media, academic experts, diplomats and even the representatives from the minority groups. The third stage is that they will observe the elections at the polling stations when the citizens are voting, and finally they will conduct a review of their findings and then write up a report.

4.1 Global Perspective

When a country conducts genuine democratic elections, it is an expression of sovereignty, which in essence belongs to the citizens of a country. Their expression (which is exhibited through voting) provides a countrys government the basis of being authoritative and legitimate. It is important to point out that the right of citizens to vote is an internationally recognized human right (Mukoya, 2017). When the elections are conducted in a credible and fair manner, they will resolve internal conflicts that exist in that country ensure that there is an atmosphere of peace and stability. In regions where its government is considered legitimate especially by the international community, they face little or no threat from non-democratic challenges to power.

The international election observers mainly express the interests of the international community in ensuring that when a country conducts elections, it does it democratically. This is in-line with the global democratic development which focuses on ensuring that countries respect and upholds its citizen's human rights and also the rule of law (Bader & Schmeets, 2014). It is also focused on civil and political rights, which are also part of the international human rights monitoring and they need to ensure that it conducted in a manner that upholds the highest standards regarding impartiality about the political competitors. They (the international observers) must not be seen to be biased for or against a certain politician or political party. Their role is to ensure that a genuinely democratic election is conducted while noting that the citizens of a country are the ones who will determine if the election process was credible and legitimate such as what was recently observed in Kenya.

One of the main reasons why election monitoring is essential is based on the fact that it provides legitimacy for the international community that the process was conducted in a fair, credible, and integral manner. It also acts as an avenue whereby the international community can ensure that the government upholds its citizens civil rights and respects the will of the people especially the minorities in that country (Bader & Schmeets, 2014). It is important to point out that genuine democratic elections are considered to be an act of sovereignty, which in essence belongs to the people of that country, and an act of free expression that provides the basis for both legitimacy and authority of its government.

The people have not endorsed a government that rigs itself into power, and therefore, it cannot be considered to be an authoritative body that represents the country, and it is not legitimate. Therefore it should not be supported by other governments in different countri...

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