Voter Registration challenges on Kenyan Coast

Nation: Voting problems on Coast. One is potential intimidation tactics discouraging voter registration, with the IEBC finding flyers calling for voters not to register or vote, and reports that youth, possibly associated with the separatist group the Mombasa Republican Council, have been seen copying down names of those registering. The second problem is that some politicians and local officials are reporting that groups of voters are being ferried from their home areas to register in other locations.

Obviously the IEBC will have large challenges. No surprise in that. A big question will be whether the IEBC will be seen as taking some level of decisive action to get in front of these situations, or not. In 2007 election, I was told afterwards that once it became clear that the ECK was both toothless, and not going to be an honest broker, the process degenerated as most of the players expected rigging and acted accordingly.

Kenyan Court strikes Government’s action outlawing Mombasa Republican Council

 

Judicial independence is becoming serious stuff in Kenya.  A three-judge panel of the High Court sitting in Mombasa has ruled that Kenya’s executive branch acted unconstitutionally  in “banning” the secessionist Mombasa Republican Council.  As the decision was reported in the Daily Nation:

The judges advised the group to register as a political party to pursue its agenda through legal means.

And apparently alive to the fact that Kenyans may question the rationale behind their judgment, more so in the light of the group’s secession demands, the judges pointed out that secession was a weighty matter that could not be realised through the means the group was pursuing.

“There may be Kenyans who may disenchanted with the our decision. Some would see it as an endorsement to secession and dismembering of this country.

“To them we say: Secession can only be achieved by far-reaching amendment to the constitution,” the judges ruled.

“Secession is a political agenda. MRC is certainly not a trade union, welfare society or a debating society. It has all the attributes of a political movement,” the judges noted.

“If MRC regards this decision as carte blance to disorder or lawlessness, then they are on their own. The court cannot mute the respondents from exercising their constitutionally ordained obligation of ensuring security for all Kenyans. Should MRC cross the line, then the State, as always can invoke the law including prevention of criminal activities.”

Presumably the Government will appeal, but this would seem a fairly straightforward application of the Constitution.  Advocating for secession is obviously highly controversial–in just about any country, and particularly in Kenya and especially on the Coast, with war in Somalia, a refugee crisis and the specter of an upcoming election given a history of election-related violence.  Nonetheless, it is times like these that require constitutions and the rule of law to provide boundaries within which to have these debates peacefully.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out in the national and regional election campaigns.  Maybe democracy assistance programs working on “party building” can take some of them to visit Parti Québécois?