DISCUSSION ON THE NEED OF THE ELECTION SITUATION ROOM IN KENYA
The Development Through Media (DTM) team was on 8th June 2016, at a meeting held at the Royal Orchid Hotel from 9:00am-3:00pm. The meeting was organised by the Open Society Foundations’ (OSF) Africa Regional Office (AfRO) and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) in collaboration with the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).The forum brought together OSIEA program staff and key partners, program staff from OSF sister foundations in Africa (OSISA and OSIWA), Election Situation room(ESR) experts, and the Africa Regional Office (AfRO).
The meeting aimed to review the current political, social and economic environment within which the 2017 elections in Kenya will take place, identify potential gaps and threats that are likely to undermine the integrity of elections, discuss the elections situation room (ESR) model of election monitoring, and consider the desirability and feasibility of implementing an ESR in Kenya.
OSIEA mandate is in two key fundamental areas critical to addressing open society challenges in the region i.e. Participation of citizens and human rights.
OSIWA employs a two-pronged strategy which includes strengthening both democratic institutions and structures and civic participation in decision-making.
OSISA a Southern African organization which collaborates with other organizations on issues surrounding the rule of law, democracy and governance, human rights, economic development, education, the media, and access to technology and information.
Nadia Nata from OSIWA was one of the presenters who specifically spoke on the ESR. Among the issues he highlighted were the aim of the ESR, its main constraints, requirements for a successful ESR and relevance of the ESR.
These issues were further elaborated. For example the aim of the ESR as was pointed out is to enable Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to contribute towards the improvement of the electoral process by having the challenges observed and corrected in a timely manner by the relevant authorities. The main constraint of the ESR is that there is no place for CSOs in the management of the electoral process.
Furthermore, the requirements for a successful ESR as was mentioned included credibility of the implementers, collaborative working relationship with key stakeholders involved in the electoral process especially the election management body(EMB).Having the capacity to identify/ collect weaknesses in a credible manner. Need to identify problems and engage relevant stakeholders in a timely manner. And finally designing a strategy of engagement with public opinion.
Regarding the relevance of the ESR it was stated that it improves the integrity of the electoral process, addresses anticipated threats, reduces risks and legitimizes the electoral process.
As a way forward the Kenyan CSO participants were tasked to see if the country needs the ESR and if so how best can it be adopted to the Kenyan context. The CSOs were encouraged to work with one another so as to speak and strengthen their voices. Finally CSOs need to identify issues that they agree on.
DTM will continue to support OSIEA in its endeavour to have citizens actively participate in democracy and governance as well as human rights issues.
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