Kenya’s Elections and Future Rest in the Hands of the Kenyan People

Waheshimiwa, mabibi na mabwana, hamjambo!  Habari zenu!

It is a great pleasure to be with you this morning at Kenya’s National Election Conference.

In recent months, I have travelled this extraordinary, beautiful country from Turkana to Nakuru, from Tana River to Busia.  It’s been a wonderful opportunity for me to talk with Kenyans.  And more importantly, to listen to Kenyans.  To hear about the challenges they face, and the hopes and dreams that they have for themselves, their children, and their country.

In all those conversations, whether I was in Eldoret or Garissa, Nyeri or Narok, Kisumu or Lamu, there has been a common thread:  the 2017 elections.  They are critical for Kenya’s future.  And all Kenyans know it.

Kenyans know that free, fair, credible, and peaceful elections will propel the country forward and help realize the great promise of the 2010 Constitution.  They know these elections can consolidate their democracy, further devolution, and advance prosperity for all Kenyans.

The United States stands with Kenya as it heads into August.  We do not support any particular candidate.  We do not support any particular political party.  But we do support the democratic process and the opportunities it provides.  We want to help ensure Kenyans have a free, fair, credible, and peaceful opportunity to choose their own leaders and decide Kenya’s future on August 8th.

To achieve this goal, Kenyans need confidence in the election process and its outcome.  The IEBC has an absolutely critical responsibility to run the elections, to do so effectively and transparently, and to be a neutral, unbiased arbiter.  We, along with other international partners, are providing technical support and assistance to the IEBC to help make this happen.  We are also providing assistance for voter education, election observers, and efforts to build peace.

We stand with Kenya, but ultimately, these are Kenyan elections.  And I urge all Kenyans to do everything they can to support the IEBC and to work towards elections that are free, fair, credible, and above all, peaceful.

Achieving this goal requires a strong IEBC, but also the commitment of all Kenyans. Not just politicians, but every citizen.

Politicians and political parties have a responsibility to pursue peaceful, issue-based, and corruption-free campaigns.  No one should misuse public resources to support a campaign.  If candidates make statements that incite hatred or violence, they must be held to account.  Not just with words, but with action.  Political parties cannot encourage violence.  I urge all Kenyans to reject those who call for violence and to press leaders to build bridges between communities, not to divide them.

Strong democracies and good elections depend too on non-governmental institutions.  The rights and freedoms of the media and of civil society are essential to successful polls.  We encourage the media to be responsible in its election reporting.  It should provide balanced coverage.  Hate speech – words that stir up violence or threaten other people – should not be amplified.  Those on social media also have a responsibility to avoid stoking hatred.  And civil society organizations need space to do their vital work educating voters on rights and encouraging people to express their views while also fostering peace.

Religious leaders too, can be peacemakers – building tolerance in communities and encouraging dialogue.

The police and security officials have a responsibility to protect all Kenyans during the elections and to remain neutral, especially during political demonstrations.  They have an obligation to respect human rights and to ensure all eligible Kenyans can vote in safety and security.

And, citizens, on election day, should turn out to vote to make their voices heard through the ballot box.

Elections have winners and losers and everyone must accept – peacefully – the outcome.  In cases where disputes arise, they should be resolved through the courts or other appropriate institutions in accord with the rule of law.  Not through violence, threats, or intimidation.

No Kenyan should die because of an election.  To realize the promise of the 2010 Constitution, Kenyans will need to reject chaos and work for the best possible elections this August.

I believe in Kenya.  Kenya is a great country and Kenyans are a great people.  These elections are an opportunity for the country to take another giant step forward.  The Kenyan people will make their choices on August 8th.  Whatever the results, the elections aren’t an end, they are a beginning.  The Kenyan people will have chosen their leaders and given them a responsibility… and a mandate.

And, we already know the mandate.  From my criss-crossing of this exceptional land, from my meetings with women political aspirants in Garissa, the county youth bunge in Kitale, pastoralists in Lodwar, artists in Voi, business people in Nakuru, elders in Kericho, and students in Kisumu, the mandate is clear.

All Kenyans want peace, the rule of law, good government, and prosperity for their country.  They want a bright future for their children, good jobs, strong schools, a clean environment, a safe and healthy community.

As a friend, the United States will do all it can to help Kenyans hold successful elections on August 8th.  But only Kenyans can ensure the polls are free, fair, credible, and peaceful.  From my experience in this great country, I know Kenyans can succeed… if they work together and commit themselves to the principles of the Constitution.  If Kenyans do, they will build a remarkable future… and, at the same time, inspire Africa and the world.

Pamoja tusonge mbele.

Asanteni Sana.