Monday, July 17, 2017

#RwandaElections: NEC extends voters registration period by one day

Rwanda National Electoral Commission (NEC) has extended the voter register updating process by 24 hours after several requests from voters.
Charles Munyaneza, NEC executive secretary said; “Many registered voters have been requesting for more time. This is why we have added another extra day.”
The process of updating voter’s register has been done in person, online or by phone USSD codes, and today July 17, 2017 was the deadline.
At least 6, 888, 592 Rwandans are set to participate in the August 4th polls. The final list of voters is expected to be announced on July 19, according to the NEC calendar.
Three presidential candidates are campaigning across the country- Paul Kagame, flag-bearer of Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) Inkotanyi, Dr. Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda(DGPR) and Phillipe Mpayimana, an independent candidate.
Voters with vision impairments will for the first time take part in the presidential election in the history of Rwandan elections.
“Those who can use braille, will use special braille lists that will be distributed to election centers. Those who cannot braille will use a special voting mechanism- where they will place their fingers in holes lined according to the list of candidates on the voters list,” said Prof. Kalisa Mbanda, the NEC chairman.
Rwandans in diaspora will cast their votes on August 3, while Rwandans in the country will vote on August 4, 2017. This date is expected to be a big celebration for many as #Rwandadecides
To Register online Click Here

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Google unveils free tools to safeguard #KenyaElections

Google and technology incubator platform Jigsaw have unveiled a suite of free tools that will help guard against digital attacks during the election period in Kenya.

Dubbed “Protect Your Election”, the tools are designed to help safeguard news organisations, human rights groups, and election monitoring sites from online threats. Work by such organisations is critical before and during elections.

Africa Uncensored -- owned by investigative journalist John-Allan Namu -- and Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) are some of the sites that were famously defaced.

The threats include DDoS (denial-of-service) attacks, phishing and attempts to break into people’s private accounts.

Google is an American tech giant whose innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day.

Global security
Jigsaw is an incubator within Alphabet that builds technology to tackle some of the toughest global security challenges.

The technology helps in, among other things, thwarting online censorship, mitigating threats from digital attacks, countering violent extremism and protecting people from online harassment.

One of those tools unveiled on Tuesday is Project Shield, which provides free DDoS protection to news sites, human rights groups, and election monitoring sites.

“It is important to provide free protection to these organisations in particular, as they are the groups that provide voters with information they need to make informed decisions. The site is in both English and Swahili,” said an organiser.

The new suite also offers digital defences for individuals, including Password Alert — a Chrome extension that helps protect against phishing attacks by alerting you if a website is trying to steal your Google password.

Another tool offered by Protect Your Election is 2-Step Verification, which provides an extra layer of defense to keep your account secure.

The suit also includes uProxy, a virtual private network (VPN) that will be available for organisations as opposed to individuals. This would come in handy should the State decide to censor social media.

About 125,000 DDoS attacks happen every week and tens of millions of phishing attempts are recorded every few months.

DDoS attacks have often targeted investigative journalists and election monitoring groups in various countries.

During the last few years, there has been a rise in digital attacks targeting government, political party websites, press and journalists around the world.

Commenting on the suite, Google Kenya Country Manager Charles Murito said: “Everyone has a right to a full and credible story. The free Google tools are designed to safeguard publishers, news organisations, human rights groups and election monitoring sites from digital attacks during the election period.”

Source: Business Daily

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

#RwandaElection outcome is already decided

“More of a coronation than real contest.” That’s how the Kenyan daily The Standard characterised Rwanda’s presidential poll slated for 4 August. It sums up the reality well. In countries with competitive politics, elections are an important moment giving rise to debate and excitement. Not so in Rwanda.
Rwandans have become accustomed to polls where everything is settled in advance. This was the case before the genocide, when the country was officially a one-party state. And it has been the case since 1994, after which Rwanda became a de facto one-party state under the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
The current template for elections was set in 2003, when a constitutional referendum and the first post-genocide elections were held. In the run-up to these polls, the last genuine opposition party was banned, while the campaign was marred by arrests, disappearances and intimidation. An EU observer mission noted that, ironically, “political pluralism is more limited than during the transition period”.
The polls themselves were replete with allegations of fraud, manipulation of electoral lists, ballot-box stuffing, and flawed counting. Paul Kagame was declared the winner with 95% of the vote.
Similar dynamics were seen in the 2008 and 2013 parliamentary elections as well as the 2010 presidential poll. Opposition leaders were arrested and condemned to long prison sentences, while other critical voices were killed or went into exile.
In 2010, there were reports of local leaders going from door to door to collect voters’ cards and submitting their ballots for them. The Commonwealth observer mission at the time noted that “it was not possible to ascertain quite where, how and when the tabulation was completed”.

Kagame until 2034?

The presidential elections in 2010 were expected to be Kagame’s last. He was beginning his second constitutionally-mandated seven-year term and denied that he would seek re-election. He even claimed it would be a failure on his part to find a replacement and warned that “those who seek a third term will seek a fourth and a fifth”.
Nevertheless, many remained sceptical that Kagame would step down, and in May 2013, his position became clearer when Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama was sacked shortly after insisting in an interview that Kagame would have to leave power in 2017 in accordance with the law.
By this time, a campaign had already started aimed at “convincing” the president to stay in office. In 2015, this culminated in 3.7 million Rwandans signing a petition – some under significant pressure – demanding that parliament enact constitutional changes that would allow Kagame to remain in power. It was claimed that this was a spontaneous action by the people, but it is unlikely such an operation could have been organised without the president’s knowledge and direction.
In subsequent “consultations” on the matter held throughout the country, MPs and senators claimed to have only found ten people – out of a population of 11 million – who opposed the initiative. Soon after, both houses unanimously approved a constitutional amendment to be put to a referendum.
The proposed revision called for maintaining the two-term limit and reducing term lengths from seven to five years. It also included a crucial provision allowing the incumbent to first run for an additional seven-year term, after which he would be eligible to bid for two more five-year terms. The changes effectively allow Kagame to stay in power until 2034, by which time he would have ruled Rwanda for 40 years.
While the issue of term limits has led to protests in many African countries, in Rwanda there was no debate or demonstrations around the December 2015 referendum. This was not surprising given that since the RPF took power, no demonstrations have taken place that were not organised by the regime itself. The amendment passed with 98.3% of the popular vote.
On 31 December 2015, President Kagame announced that he would run again, saying: “You requested me to lead this country again after 2017. Given the importance and consideration you attach to this, I can only accept”.

The candidates

Others also declared their intention to stand in 2017, including a handful of independents, but they have faced significant obstructions.
In May 2017, 35-year-old Diana Rwigara announced her candidacy, saying “people are tired, people are angry”. She had previously shown courage in criticising the government and human rights abuses. In the days following her announcement, doctored nude photographs of her circulated on social media.
Another aspirant, the Catholic prelate turned politician Thomas Nahimana, was denied access to Rwanda. Meanwhile, Gilbert Mwenedata, claimed that he was refused rooms by hotels in Kigali to hold a press conference to announce his plans.
The challenges facing independent candidates are dauntingly high to begin with. To be eligible, they must collect 600 signatures of support, including at least 12 from each of 30 districts. This may not seem much, but in an environment that does not tolerate criticism of the regime, it takes a lot of courage to reveal oneself to be an opposition supporter. Rwigara claimed that local leaders threatened her supporters as they tried to gather signatures.
Nevertheless, at least two hopefuls – Rwigara and Mwenedata – claimed to have met this requirement. But the National Electoral Commission (NEC) rejected their candidacies, claiming many of the signatures gathered were invalid. The NEC did not allow the candidates to see their lists to work out which names were disqualified, and several diplomats in Kigali expressed concern over the process.
In the end, only one independent hopeful – the little-known former journalist Philippe Mpayimana – made it onto the NEC’s final list.
The barriers for political parties are less onerous, and the Democratic Green Party’s (DGP) Frank Habineza was affirmed as the third and final presidential candidate. All other parties announced that they would not field nominees, but instead back Kagame.

No level playing field

As in previous elections in Rwanda, 2017’s opposition candidates have not faced an easy time or a level playing field in the run up to the polls.
While the RPF benefits from vast financial resources through its business ventures, other hopefuls were warned by the NEC against raising funds before being declared eligible. The electoral commission also announced in May that any social media messages by candidates or parties had to be submitted for vetting 48 hours prior to publication. Habineza called the decision “oppressive” and, after strong diplomatic protest, the measure was rescinded in early-June.
Opposition parties – in particular the non-registered FDU-Inkingi – have also seen their cadres arrested or disappeared. Amnesty International recently denounced the climate of fear surrounding the elections, saying: “Since the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front took power 23 years ago, Rwandans have faced huge, and often deadly, obstacles to participating in public life and voicing criticism of government policy. The climate in which the upcoming elections take place is the culmination of years of repression.”
In these tense and oppressive circumstances, and given the widespread allegations of manipulation in Rwanda’s previous elections, it is not surprising that the head of the EU delegation in Kigali has said that “you would not lose any money if you bet on Mr Paul Kagame”.

Indeed, a 90% or higher victory for Kagame on 4 August seems inevitable in what will be coronation rather than election. All this is underscored by the latest Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) report in which Rwanda scored a mere two out of ten for “free and fair elections” and “effective power to govern”, and three for “association/assembly rights” and “freedom of expression”.

#KenyaElections 2017 will be like none before. Here’s why.

Kenya’s 2017 elections are set to be the country’s most interesting yet. The political landscape has shifted, and whatever else these elections turn out to be – violent, peaceful, confusing − they are going to a different kettle of fish to previous polls.
The most obvious reason for this is devolution. After the 2010 constitution was passed, Kenya restructured its political and legislative units, breaking 8 massive provinces into 47 counties made up of various wards. The national legislature was broken into two branches, establishing the roles of senator and governor. And the position of women’s representatives was created in each county to help achieve the new constitution’s gender quotas.
These changes also affected how elections work. In 2007, Kenyans voted at three levels: for a councillor, a member of parliament (MP), and a president. On 8 August 2017, the electorate will vote at six: a member of the county assembly (MCA), a women’s representative, an MP, a senator, a governor, and a president.
This was also the case in 2013, but since then, it has become much clearer how the different levels of government operate in relation to one another. This means that some positions have become far more attractive and therefore competitive. And this increased contestation at the local level has undermined some of the typical tropes of Kenyan politics such as tribalism and regionalism. Things have changed.

Kenya’s political pyramid
One can think of Kenya’s system of political operatives as operating in a pyramid formation. At the bottom are local elders. One step up are county assembly members, followed by members of parliament, senators, and county governors. Above them are the ethnic kingpins. These are powerful individuals that come together to at the highest level to form national political alliances or coalitions that then contest the elections. In the case of 2017, we have President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto on one side as the incumbents, with Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and others on the opposing side.
Typically, the role of local elders at the bottom rung has been to marshal voters to back the right kingpin at the top. Much of campaign spending goes towards cementing this local loyalty. Although politicians themselves sometimes hand out cash at rallies, the really important network has been low-level leaders giving out goodies in less intense environments. It’s the chief calling a village meeting and distributing bags of maize flour, or the women’s group leader dishing out t-shirts at the chama meeting.
In prior elections, knowing which way local leaders were leaning gave a good indication of how the overall vote in a specific region would go. For politicians, spending enough money on these low-level actors could usually guarantee a positive return at the ballot box.

Dismantling the pyramid

Not anymore it seems. Devolution has made local politics much more intimately connected with voters’ day-to-day lives. Power has become demystified, and this has inspired more people to challenge local leadership when it has been deemed to fail. A record 14,525 candidates are running for office in 2017, and low-level chiefs and elders can no longer guarantee voters’ support for a particular party through the traditional means.
In 2013, it was enough for a candidate who wanted to be elected to buy a nomination certificate from their party and then hand out money at a rally, safe in the knowledge that their “person on the ground” would distribute campaign goodies to people to secure their votes. But with a more discerning electorate who, through devolution, more closely see how local power works, or doesn’t, these tactics are no longer as effective.
This can also be seen in the way Kenyan voters have been rejecting the notion of “six-piece voting”. This was a strategy employed by national politicians in 2013 whereby they encouraged supporters to vote for the same party across all six levels of government. This was most beneficial to those candidates in the middle levels of the pyramid. Rather than establishing independent political identities, candidates for MCAs, MPs and senators could just provide money downwards to foster low-level loyalty for the party, while trading off the popularity of the national-level politicians above them.
When Odinga and Kenyatta have proposed six-piece voting in 2017, however, they have been heckled and booed at their own rallies. People don’t want to just vote blindly for the same party in all the boxes; they want more say in what happens at the various levels.
We saw these new dynamics play out in the party primaries this April. Despite significant attempts at mobilisation, voters rejected incumbent MCAs, MPs and even governors who they believe have failed to deliver. Several key allies of national politicians failed to win their party’s nomination.
Many of these figures are now running instead as independents, meaning that many ethnic groups have two or more powerful figures contesting key constituencies. This divides these ethnic kingdoms and presents a dilemma for political parties. On one hand, they need to appease loyalists by putting the force of the party behind each of their candidates; on the other, they need to court voters that support those popular independents that have left the party.
To date, leaders have responded to this conundrum by inviting some independent hopefuls to participate in party events, but this has led to public, and sometimes violent, clashes between supporters of the different candidates.

A new politics?

In 2017, voters are not just rejecting six-piece voting and exercising their judgements over local candidates beyond party loyalty. They are also being vocal and visible about it.
This is the first time in recent memory that we’re seeing national political figures appear uncertain before their own supporters during their own rallies. The sight of Kenyatta, a sitting president, being heckled – not once, but fairly consistently during the election period − is novel. That people at a Odinga rally would shout anything that wasn’t a synonym for ndio baba (“yes father”) is unprecedented.

Of course, more things have changed in Kenyan politics since 2013 than those examined here. But these changes, amongst others, have thrown a significant measure of unpredictability into the landscape. Political punditry in Kenya has always been fixated on the ethnic question, but this time around, it’s not going to be that simple. Ethnic loyalty is still important, but it is no longer absolute. Voters have changed, politicians are adapting, and everything is getting a lot more…interesting.

Source: Africa Argument 

Friday, July 7, 2017

#KenyaElections: No changes to the voter register, candidates' list - IEBC

The electoral agency could be headed for a fresh confrontation with the Opposition and candidates whose poll disputes are still pending in various courts.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) yesterday declared that it would not allow any further changes to the voter register and list of candidates. The Raila Odinga-led Opposition has been agitating for the removal of dead voters from the register.

However, IEBC yesterday cited tight timelines as the reason for not allowing any further changes. Addressing a press conference in Nairobi, IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati said dispute resolution processes were taking too much time, explaining that further delay could derail the election preparation process.

He said the electoral system in place requires IEBC to load details of candidates in all the 45,000 Kenya Integrated Elections Management Systems (KIEMS) kits, a process it argues is time -consuming.

"Rather than risk the realisation of the entire polls on August 8, the commission has resolved that no further amendments to the candidates' list and the register of voters shall be introduced at this stage," Mr Chebukati said. The declaration is expected to put IEBC at loggerheads with the Judiciary.

On Wednesday, Chief Justice David Maraga warned the commission against printing ballot papers until the ongoing cases are concluded. But Chebukati complained that the courts were too slow and the commission could not continue waiting for the determination of the cases.

"Under the law, political parties were required to nominate their candidates and resolve intra-party disputes at least 90 days prior to the election day. The commission was required to register the candidates at least 60 days to the election day and a period of 10 days for disputes in resolution.

"However, a month to the polls we are concerned that disputes continue in courts and at the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal," he said.

IEBC, however, indicated that the affected candidates could still participate though their results would not be transmitted electronically.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Violence possible in Kenya presidential election, EU warns

t's "no secret" there are concerns about possible violence in Kenya's presidential election next month, the head of the European Union's election observer mission said Monday.

A decade ago, postelection violence in Kenya left more than 1,000 people dead and 600,000 displaced from their homes. It was arguably the worst upheaval the East African nation had experienced since independence from Britain in 1963.

Violence next month would create a situation "where everybody loses," Marietje Schaake said as the EU observer mission launched.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is seeking re-election against a challenge by opposition leader Raila Odinga, whom he beat in the 2013 vote. Kenyatta supporters have accused Odinga of planning violence if he does not win. Odinga has dismissed those claims, and his supporters call them a ploy by Kenyatta's supporters to win votes.

Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, were on opposing sides of the 2007 post-election violence. They were charged at the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating the violence. The charges were dropped due to lack of evidence, while the ICC prosecutor blamed unprecedented witness interference and bribery.

A government report into the 2007 events found that deep-seated historical injustices, especially linked to land, sparked the violence as well as unrest in the 1992 and 1997 elections.

Currently Kenya faces deadly clashes over land in Laikipia county, where more than 34 people have died since late last year as herders have occupied ranches while claiming rights to land their ancestors occupied before colonialism. The ranchers say politicians are inciting the semi-nomadic herders to take over the land, even though the military has been deployed to remove the herders.

Source: ABC

#KenyaElections: Political Parties Launch Election Campaign

Kenya’s ruling Jubilee coalition and main opposition coalition have launched their campaign platforms for the August elections.

Launching their campaign pledges the ruling Jubilee party and opposition coalition National Super Alliance have promised to transform the country and Kenyan’s lives.

Both sides pledged to improve education, health, infrastructure to foster economic growth, and to create jobs for millions of Kenyan youth. They also promise to fight corruption.

The Jubilee party led by President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to win a second term in office. The party is campaigning on a platform featuring development projects like a passenger and cargo railway to win voters in the August polls.

Political commentator Sam Kamau says the promises made by the government and the opposition are the same.

“They have focused on the same issues, even the target and the things they hope to achieve are basically the same," said Kamau. "The only thing you can say is a bit different is the spirit in the two manifestos. Partly because on the Jubilee side they have been in the government for the last four and half years and this manifesto should be an audit of some of the things they have done and therefore what they can hope to achieve if they continue in government. For the opposition it is an opportunity for them to showcase what they can do if they are given the rein of power.”

Some Kenyans are questioning whether the pledges made by the politicians can be achieved or implemented.

Professor Herman Manyora is a political analyst and lecturer at the University of Nairobi. He says Kenyans are used to false promises.

“These are things they can not do, they just promise to that extent. Therefore people are not putting much capital on this. People are not expecting anything out of them, and more importantly, our people vote along the tribal line,” he said.

The opposition is promising to form an inclusive government, solve historical injustices and unite communities.

Manyora says an equal society can help bring an end to bad governance. “All these things you say you want to do, you cannot do them if you do not have a united country. If you do not have inclusivity, people feel they belong to this country. You cannot complete road projects if you cannot deal with corruption, because corruption will eat all the money.”

Kenya has witnessed electoral violence in several campaigns over the years. In the 2007 disputed presidential election up to 1,500 people may have died and more than a quarter of a million were uprooted from their homes.

In the August 8 election, Kenyatta is running for a second term in office against several challengers, including former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Source: VOA

Using Digital and Social Media to Monitor and Reduce Violence in Kenya’s Elections

Social media and digital technology offer immense potential for citizens, policymakers and practitioners to raise awareness of, monitor, and respond to violence. With Kenya’s elections approaching, technology can help to raise awareness of insecurity, support early warning, combat incitement of violence and promote accountability.

However, digital technology also carries a number of risks. To maximise effectiveness and inclusivity, 1) greater support must be given to locally legitimate peace messaging and counter-speech; 2) government, media and civil society should collaborate to improve transparency and accountability in the regulation of online activity; and 3) social media monitoring of violence should be undertaken in conjunction with other reporting systems that seek to overcome inequalities in digital access and use.

Source: Institute of Development Studies

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