On 28 May 2013, the Hanns Seidel Foundation organised a high level conference on “Challenges of integrity: political processes and leadership in Kenya”. Peter Kenneth, presidential candidate of Kenya National Congress, offered an introductory address focusing on recent Kenyan history, followed by an exchange of views between Philmeon Mwaisaka, Commissioner in the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution, Heike Schneider from the Kenyan Desk at the European External Action Service and Tom Mboya, Head of the Kenyan NGO INUKA Kenya Trust.
Following the presidential elections in December 2007, incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner. Supporters of his opponent, Raila Odinga, contested his re-election which they considered fraudulent. International observers confirmed that electoral manipulation methods were used by Kibaki’s party. This protest degenerated into violence in several cities of the country, leading to a bloodshed between supporters of the two candidates. In January 2008, after the failure of the African Union’s mediation, former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, took over mediation in Kenya in a context where violence was continuing. On 28 February 2008, in order to resolve the crisis, an agreement to set up a coalition government was signed. Mwai Kibaki remained at the head of the country and Raila Ondiga was appointed Prime Minister. If this agreement has allowed Kenya to get out of the crisis, to work towards national reconciliation, and to adopt a new constitution by referendum in 2010, the Kenyan society is still affected by the violence that followed the 2008 elections. New elections were held in March 2013. Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner in the first round of the election, defeating Raila Oding. The opponent deposited a petition to the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the presidential election. In its judgment, the Court stated that “the general election was free and fair” and “Uhuru Kenyatta has been validly elected”. However, during these elections, integrity standards were still not fully applied to the candidates vying for the various political positions and the electoral processes did not fully meet the expected standards.
How can leadership and integrity, which are important aspects of a democratic state, be put into practice given that mere constitutional stipulation seems not to be enough?
Peter Kenneth highlighted that leadership and integrity are part of the new Constitution. Therefore, the main challenge faced by Kenya is to effectively and fully implement this Constitution, which is, according to him, very ambitious. He adopted a positive view regarding progresses made by Kenya in the three years that elapsed since the adoption of the new Constitution.
Philmeon Mwaisaka, Commissioner in the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) which is an independent body created by the Constitution itself, is directly involved in the implementation of the Fundamental Law. In this perspective his intervention focused on balancing achievements and challenges in the implementation of the new Constitution. Amongst successes observed, he highlighted the increase in public participation and that power was no longer concentrated in the President’s hands. Similarly, the judiciary, the legislative and the executive are effectively separate. Mr. Mwaisaka stressed on the importance for Kenya to continue its reforms. For instance, he considers that it is necessary to support judicial sector, as well as police sector. He agreed with Mr. Kenneth on the fact that the Constitution is a very comprehensive text that needs to be fully applied, including with regard to leadership and integrity in politics.
Representing the European Union’s point of view, Heike Schneider started by recalling the EU’s commitment to Kenya. For example, the EU sent an observation mission consisting of 65 observers during the 2013 presidential elections. The general assessment on these elections was positive. However, some points need to be improved: the campaign started late, the election commission encountered problems of capacity, the communication was bad, etc. Mrs. Schneider also emphasised the necessity to reconsider the agenda set for the implementation of the Constitution. Above all, she insisted on the emergency to strengthen the constitutional process before the next elections.
Representing the civil society, Tom Mboya drew attention to the magnitude of reforms required within Kenya’s transitional process in the light of the short period of time. He underlined that the expectations were very high, and that, therefore, patience is also necessary. The constitutional framework exists, as well as an integrity framework. In other words, law exists. It is now necessary to implement it, which is the most critical part of the transition. Kenya still has a long way to go in order to create a real democratic state.
The stakeholders closed the conference by an exchange of view on the International Criminal Court (ICC) issue, the ICC has been investigating on responsibilities for the 2007–2008 post-election violence. The new Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, is allegedly criminally responsible as an indirect co-perpetrator, by the ICC. As highlighted by Heike Schneider and Tom Mboya, the fight against impunity remains a major challenge for Kenya. Kenya needs to continue its efforts in order to meet international obligations. However, Peter Kenneth was more critical. Firstly, he pointed out that the problem was not the lack of laws on prosecution but the lack of implementation of these laws. Moreover, he regretted that the ICC focuses on few people, at high level. According to him, to achieve a real national reconciliation, it is necessary to focus on the roots of the problem and not to pursue few perpetrators.
You can find more details on the event here