Arusha: East African Community to monitor elections in partner states

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Conflicts created by flawed elections in any EAC country would impact negatively on the integration process, says Hon. Kiraso

The office charged with Political Affairs at the EAC Secretariat is spearheading the development of a Protocol on Good Governance that will be binding for all Partner States once signed. The Protocol would provide the necessary framework for EAC efforts in upholding the fundamental principles of the Community which include Democracy, Rule of Law, Protection of Human Rights, Accountability, Transparency and Equal Opportunities, among others.

One key pillar in the Good Governance Protocol is prudent democratization processes, which basically is the Electoral systems and procedures. It is in this regard that the Forum of Electoral Commissions was established and under this Forum’s auspices an Electoral Support Mission, composed of members of the Electoral Commissions from the other four countries, visited Burundi in October, last year.

The Support Mission was coordinated by the Office of the Deputy Secretary General in charge of Political Federation, Hon. Beatrice Kiraso.

“The Burundi Independent Electoral Commission is new and needs support to build its capacity so that it can conduct free and fair elections. This is a country in which the rest of EAC has special interest because it is a post-conflict country whose peace and stability efforts need to be supported,” the Deputy Secretary General stated today.

“The EAC also intends to move from conventional election Observer Missions to Election Monitoring. This will entail long term activities to be looked into because electioneering is more than mere casting of ballots on the voting day. It involves voter registration, civic education, ensuring the right material is in the right places and at the right time. The process needs to be monitored during counting, tallying, announcing of results and even up to swearing-in of successful candidates,” the Deputy Secretary General added.

The EAC, once Council endorses, will put together a team of long term observers, not only for Burundi whose elections start in June, but also the other Partner States to ensure harmonization and standardization of election processes.

This year, Rwanda and Tanzania will also hold elections in August and October respectively. Uganda will follow in 2011 and Kenya in 2012.

The Deputy Secretary General (Political Federation) also expressed the need for EAC Partner States to harmonize the electoral period.

“Right now the elections in different countries take place at different times and almost bring work of the Community at a stand-still because the quorum of EAC meetings is the presence of all Partner States” she noted.

Hon. Kiraso noted that the election period can only be harmonized if Partner States allow a “give and take” that may require one or two countries to have a longer term to catch up with the others.

“We may have to accommodate this nightmare until the time when the Political Federation is established, because then there will be one East African Constitution”, she remarked.

The Electoral Support Mission to Burundi made a report in which a number of issues to be addressed were identified.

The EAC Council of Ministers in November referred the report to the Burundi Government to enable it to have an input before a decision on the way-forward is taken.

Key among the issues that the Support Mission raised arose from the election law itself, the need to address the funding gap for the elections, timely voter registration update and improvement of security during the campaign and election period.

Other issues that the Forum of Electoral Commissions had earlier identified as key, and needed to be addressed at EAC level, are the cost of elections, ownership of the process, building confidence of the masses in the Electoral Commissions, minimizing electoral disputes and harmonizing electoral laws to adopt best practices.

Source: East African Community (EAC)

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