re: Envoy predicts free and fair election
julius Kioko wrote:
I think the US envoy has a fair assessment of what is going on. The election will not be rigged. I am however not sure about the ODM’s readiness to concede defeat.
Envoy predicts free and fair election
Published on December 18, 2007, 12:00 am
By Joe Ombuor
American Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Michael Ranneberger, is upbeat that this year’s hotly contested General Election will be free, fair and transparent.
In an exclusive interview with The Standard, he singled out violence in some parts of the country and the brutality meted out on a number of women candidates as a blot on the pre-election period, but he paid tribute to the three leading Presidential candidates for strongly and clearly stating their disapproval of it and the Commissioner of Police for promising to bolster security for women candidates.
He urged the media, particularly the public-funded State broadcaster, KBC, to be objective in their campaign coverage.
Speaking at his official residence in Nairobi this week, the envoy made clear his abhorrence of the misuse of State resources for campaign purposes.
On the thorny issue of corruption, Ranneberger said he thought Kenya was on course in fighting the vice, even though cases such as Goldenberg and Anglo Leasing had yet to be resolved.
He condemned tribal politics as a dark factor in Kenya and appealed to leaders to reach out beyond tribal issues.
"It is important not to let tribalism dominate these elections," he emphasised.
The 10th General Election, said Ranneberger, was a defining moment for Kenya. He cited the reappointment of Mr Samuel Kivuitu as Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya as a positive step ‘because most Kenyans — including political parties — have confidence in him and his determination to run a free and fair election’.
The envoy said he was confident that all the competing sides would respect the results, once they were declared by the Electoral Commission.
Ranneberger said he anticipated a smooth transition ‘regardless of the outcome on December 27’ and called on the principal Presidential candidates to ensure their teams were in touch for an incident-free post-election period.
"Let whichever side that wins reach out to the others," he advised, saying each side ought to be sending out reassuring messages that they intend to be all-inclusive and to treat losers fairly.
The Ambassador said the US had great interest in the election, citing the high-level delegation sent as observers and election monitors from the US Embassy.
He, however, stressed that his government was neutral and would work with whoever won.
"We shall not hesitate to speak out against abuses and, where the process is good, we shall say so. We are not biased," he said.
Ranneberger also said disinformation on the war of terror had led to groundless speculation that some Kenyan Muslims had been arrested and transferred to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Following are excerpts from the Interview:
Q: What can you say about the electoral process so far?
Ambassador: In my view, the process has gone fairly well so far. If you look at the past five years, there has been increased democratic space. There is more democracy now in Kenya than ever before as evidenced by the fact that politicians in these campaigns have had the ability to speak out, and have open rallies, which is very, very positive.
Another positive element is the presence of more women candidates than ever before, a clear sign that progress has been made.
But violence as witnessed in Kuresoi, Mount Elgon, Kisii and other places, coupled with the numerous assaults on women, is causing concern. I condemn this violence. I have spoken against it before and I am cautiously optimistic that we will not see too much of it in the weeks to come. But I commend President Kibaki and Opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka for their clear stand against violence and the way they told their followers to avoid it.
I think the violence we are seeing is largely stimulated by local forces, politicians expressing tribal sentiments on really local issues. It is something we are watching very closely.
Q. What are America’s expectations on the forth-coming elections?
A: That the process will be free, fair, transparent and credible. I think it has been a relatively good process so far. The appointment of Mr Kivuitu was a very positive step. Most Kenyans, including the political parties, have confidence in him.
The fact that campaigns are being conducted openly and fairly is positive. We have some concerns on violence, but it is positive all the leading Presidential candidates have spoken against it.
Q: What role does you think tribalism plays in Kenyan politics?
A: This is one of the biggest issues that Kenyans should deal with. It is going to be a factor in these elections. The leaders must reach out beyond tribal issues to appeal to all Kenyans with the message that tribal politics is not healthy.
Q: And the Kenyan voter?
A: I have really strong confidence in Kenyan voters. I think they are more educated than ever before, and I think they are determined not to be manipulated by political forces through violence or intimidation. I think they are going to vote on the basis of who they think is the best person to run the country.
Q: What about the promises being made by the Presidential candidates?
A: These kinds of promises by candidates are the norm in all democratic elections. Even in the US, candidates make all kinds of promises to the voters. The one question Kenyans should be asking is how the promises will be paid for. You cannot do everything — have new roads, all new schools, universal education, new hospitals, universal healthcare. Name it. You have to have priorities for the sake of funding.
Voter education and awareness is important when it comes to looking at issues objectively. The election process should be an informed one. It is a helpful thing to have debates among the candidates where they confront each other directly so voters can determine whether they think the promises are credible or not.
Q: A lot has been said on the war on terror and the injustices it has caused the Muslim community. Your comment?
A: What the US and Kenya have in common is that we are both democracies; that we share some values with respect to human rights and freedom. The terrorist threat affects us all, as happened here in 1998 and 2002.
I believe that any Kenyan Government, regardless of the Head of State, will have an interest in cooperating with all countries on terrorism. What is important is openness on these issues to avoid misinformation. We need to respect the law and human rights in any action that we take against terrorism. The accusations and allegations about Guantanamo Bay are exaggerated and have no basis whatsoever.
What I want to say to Muslims is that we have high respect for Islam as a religion and their culture that has contributed enormously to the history of civilization. I urge people not to listen to groundless speculation. Q: What are your views on corruption?
A: Lots of people look at Kenya and say lots of big cases have not been resolved because of Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg. I always point out that we have lots of corruption even in the US. These cases take a lot of time to bring to justice. We had the famous Enron case. It took over four years to resolve in a system that works efficiently, yet only a couple of people were convicted. These things take a long time.
There has been substantial effort to fight corruption in Kenya and the award the country won for Civil Service reform is a pointer to that effect. The fact that the Civil Service is more professional than ever before is progress as are the new procurement laws recently put in place and the freedom of the Press to investigate and expose corruption. More, of course, needs to be done.
The economy has grown by 7 per cent. How much of that has actually trickled down to the people will again be determined by time.
A career diplomat, Ranneberger has been in Kenya for close to one-and-a-half years, and has served in Europe, Latin America and Africa.
He was US Ambassador to Mali between 1999 and 2002. Before his posting to Kenya, Ranneberger served as Principal Deputy Secretary for African Affairs at the State Department in Washington DC, where he oversaw the peace negotiations in Sudan.
The ambassador who studied political science and history says he believes in being positive about life. "I would rather see a glass as half full other than half empty. There is always opportunity to move ahead in every challenge and problem," he says.
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