Tomorrow, Kenya will go to the polls to elect their next president. Uganda is a landlocked country and, therefore, highly depends on Kenya for its imports and exports through the port of Mombasa. It is clear what a violent election can lead to, for Kenya, Uganda and even for the entire Great Lakes region.
Some of Kenya’s past polls have seen high levels of conflict and these have had their debilitating consequences. The riots that followed the 2007 and 2013 Kenya elections left more than 1,000 dead, property destroyed, 350,000 people displaced and business operations in both Kenya and neighbouring countries paralysed.
The effects from Kenya’s post-election violence are still fresh in the minds and lives of Ugandan traders who lost a considerable amount of goods. It was the disruptions in Kenya then that interrupted fuel supply and led to the sky-rocketing pump prices in countries surrounding Kenya. Fuel became scarce and its price went a bit over the odds.
Kenya being the region’s largest economy and by virtue of its geo-positioning, means that what affects her, directly affects Uganda and the rest of the region.
If Kenya is unstable, it will be impassable for the inland East African countries that use it as a trading route. Commerce will fester for as long as there is unrest in Kenya.
Considering the already high commodity and fuel prices brought about by the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and the on-going conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the situation might be worse than ever before if we do not rethink our actions.
It is, therefore, important that our Kenyan brothers and sisters strive to have peaceful, free and just elections for the common good. It is possible for the general public, civil society organisations, media, government, political players, and security agencies to come together and ensure that peace prevails during the coming election.
In most, if not all cases, instability has never yielded a single positive result. The consequences are always dire even for the instigators themselves, innocent civilians, business owners and neighbouring countries. Why then must we continue doing something that cannot yield the results that we would desire to see?
It is the duty of all concerned to ensure a peaceful, stable, and politically safe region. This can happen if there is a violence free election.
It is also vital that there is respect and observance of the fundamental human rights and freedoms during and after the elections. Citizens should not practice the enjoyment of their rights at the expense of others. Candidates should refrain from hate speech and defamation in their enjoyment of the right to freedom of speech and expression. As has been seen previously, hate speech can spark unnecessary volatility and tensions.
To my brothers and sisters in Kenya; elections come and go but your country shall remain. Remember that you can all agree and or even disagree in peace and with sympathy for one another. You ought to conduct yourselves in a manner that is conducive to peace, tranquility and security. Be law abiding and uphold the kind of conduct that will preserve the stability of your nation and that of your neighbours.
I implore you to be vigilant and call out those who use, or seek to use violence, money and power, or other forms of cheating; those who spread lies and hatred; those who manipulate people for their own personal interest; and those who take advantage of the weak and the vulnerable.
To all key stakeholders in Kenya’s electoral process, remember that you are being watched and assessed; you ought to show a high degree of responsibility, maturity and decorum.
I wish you a participatory, peaceful and credible election that will retain the confidence of the majority of the citizens.
Mr Crispin Kaheru, Commissioner, Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC)