Katiba Institute Work Around the 2022 General election
In the months leading up to the 2022 general election, Katiba Institute undertook several activities in line with its mandate of promoting knowledge and understanding of Kenya’s Constitution and facilitating its implementation. The activities included voter education and trainings on election-related content through community dialogues, media engagement, and social media.
After elections, Katiba Institute continued with elections related activities – following up on the community dialogues and enlightening the public about the roles of elected leaders, and the importance of their continued participation in governance issues.
The Constitution of Kenya through Article 38 guarantees each Kenyan the right to free, fair and regular elections that express the free will of the electors. Article 81 requires that the electoral system and processes be free from violence, intimidation, improper influence or corruption; and the same system and processes be transparent and administered in an accurate and accountable manner. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) administers the electoral process and is required to ensure free and fair elections through creation of appropriate structures, including elimination of electoral malpractices.
Katiba Institute hosted two conferences with a focus on elections and access to information. The meetings created a platform for discussions on the important role of media in the electoral cycle, and how journalists, individual citizens, and government entities can leverage on the access to information law to access information or proactively disclose information. Our team contributed to discussions about elections on Mtaani Radio in Nairobi and MMUST FM based in Kakamega.
Access to Information
Access to information empowers the electorate to be well informed about political processes with due regard to their best interests: to elect political office holders; to participate in decision-making processes on the implementation of laws and policies; and to hold public officials accountable for their acts or omissions in the execution of their duties. Thus, access to information is a foundational requirement of the practice of democratic governance – Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections in Africa by the African commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
The guidelines further indicate that for elections to be free, fair and credible, the electorate must have access to information at all stages of the electoral process. Without access to accurate, credible and reliable information about a broad range of issues prior, during and after elections, it is impossible for citizens to meaningfully exercise their right to vote in the manner envisaged by Article 13 of the African Charter.
Elections and security
In addition, Katiba Institute conducted trainings on electoral security and monitoring. The trainings, targeting human rights defenders and community leaders, from various parts of Mombasa, Nairobi and Kakamega, were critical for understanding the principles underpinning the electoral process and the role of communities in realization of political rights under Article 38 of the Constitution and how they intersect with other rights such as security of the person, the right to access information; digital rights, freedom of expression and equality with the aim of promoting effective community participation in the electoral process. In addition, the Institute also hosted community dialogues in Nairobi, Kiambu, Vihiga and Bungoma counties to sensitize the community on their rights in political processes. Among the participants in the dialogues were marginalised community – the Ogiek community from Mt. Elgon.
Participants in the trainings and community dialogues were grateful for the opportunity to participate noting that they were resourceful and timely. They recommended for continuous engagement with communities so that they continuously learn about their rights and responsibilities.
In line with our mandate to promote constitutionalism, we continually reviewed Bills and provided comments on their compliance with the Constitution. During the election period, various amendments to election-related laws were introduced, which we reviewed and highlighted issues of concern; notably, the Political Parties Amendment Bill, 2021, the Elections Act (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the Election Campaign Financing (Amendment) Bill, 2022. Of general concern was the lack of effective public participation in the law-making process as well as the introduction of amendments close to the elections, which undermined the preparedness for elections by the concerned institutions. KI further noted that amendments such as introduction of coalition political parties created an unequal system that disfavoured other political parties and undermined the spirit of the Constitution on political parties as vehicles for promoting participatory governance, while some provisions on the role of the Registrar of Political Parties usurped the functions of the IEBC in the regulation of political party nominations. Among other concerns were removing the duty of the Auditor General to audit political parties and introducing indirect nominations without providing for effective participation of members of a political party. From these reviews, we identified issues of which informed some of our strategies to initiate public interest litigation such as the case challenging the amendments to the Political Parties Act.
By Kevin Mabonga