The contrast in elections in Rwanda and Kenya, which both go to the polls in August, has come to the fore with the European Union saying it will not send an expert mission to assess the preparedness in Kigali even as it prepares to send one to Nairobi.
The EU will also not send an observer mission to monitor the Rwanda election, something which should not be entirely surprising given that it did not send one in 2010 “for lack of resources.” However, this is the first time that the EU will not commit to any of the missions.
Unlike an observer mission, which assesses the credibility of an election, an expert mission assesses the potential political, social, media and economic risks before the polls and examines likely interventions.
The decision not to send observers for Rwanda’s August 4 presidential elections was communicated to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) last week by the head of the EU delegation, Michael Ryan, at a closed door meeting in the company of ambassadors from Germany, UK, France and Belgium.
“We are not sending any formal observer missions to the August elections. We don’t see the need and have limited resources. There are many elections in the world and we have to decide where to put our resources,” Mr Ryan said.
While the campaigns in Rwanda are restricted to the one month provided for by the Constitution, the campaigns in Kenya kicked off in earnest last week with political parties nominating their candidates for various positions.
The EU is preparing to deploy observers in Kenya.
Andy Barnard, the first counsellor at the EU delegation to Kenya, told The EastAfrican that following an invitation from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), an EU observer mission would be in Nairobi from mid next month.
A key concern is the likely flare-up of election-related violence as that which befell Kenya in 2007.
“Every death from such violence is an avoidable tragedy. But it has to be clear that our election observers are deployed to help Kenya strengthen democracy, not to strengthen security,” said Mr Barnard.
Such is the heightened political temperature in Kenya that Catholic Bishops on April 28 warned of potential violence during elections following the shambolic party primaries that were concluded last week.
Rwanda National Electoral Commission chairman Kalisa Mbanda said bodies wishing to observe the country’s polls would be invited for accreditation next month.
In 2015, the EU, which is one Rwanda’s largest donors, was critical of the 2015 national referendum that postponed the application of presidential term limits.
“Our thoughts are that there will be no surprises in Rwanda. It has nothing to do with the fact that we disagreed with the referendum,” Mr Ryan said in an interview.
Source:The East African