Kenya must act to ensure peaceful elections, UN experts say on eve of poll

The Government of Kenya should urge all parties to maintain the highest standards of behaviour before, during and after Tuesday’s elections to avoid a repeat of the 2007 violence, three United Nations rights experts have urged.

We call on the Kenyan authorities to do their utmost to ensure peaceful elections, as well as a free and fair voting process tomorrow,rdquo; said the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Annalisa Ciampi, on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and on summary executions, Agnes Callamard.

Respect for people’s fundamental rights and freedoms – including the right to vote, freedom of expression, association and assembly are the key to free and fair elections and public participation,rdquo; they noted in a joint statement on the eve of the country’s general elections.

They said Kenya had made significant progress since 2007 in strengthening democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and noted it had taken important steps towards peacefully resolving tensions in the context of elections.

However, in the light of recent incidents of political violence, the rise of hate speech and prevailing tensions, we emphasize the importance of all those involved in the process to commit themselves to peaceful conduct during and after elections,rdquo; they said.

We also call on their supporters to remain peaceful and refrain from any incitement to violence,rdquo; they added.

The Special Rapporteurs welcomed the Government’s commitment not to shut down the internet, urging the authorities to ensure that media and civil society could report on and scrutinize the poll unhindered.

They also highlighted the responsibility of security forces to facilitate the holding of peaceful demonstrations, and to hold constructive dialogue with protesters in an effort to defuse any tensions.

If any of the protests turn violent, the principles of precaution, legality, necessity and proportionality must be observed at all times,rdquo; they said.

These tenets are the cornerstone of peaceful elections, and are key to maintaining an environment conducive to political dialogue, as well as the safety of people who have gathered to express their views in a peaceful manner,rdquo; the experts concluded.

Source: Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).