United Nations Development Programme has joined Western donors in refuting claims by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta of plotting to interfere with the election next year.
The UN agency said in a statement on Wednesday that its electoral programmes are only provided after receiving specific requests from national authorities, which, for Kenya, was received in 2014.
“Electoral assistance provided by the United Nations continues to be carried out in an objective, impartial, neutral and independent manner,” UNDP, which supports various electoral agencies around the world, said.
On Tuesday, 10 envoys from Western countries and the European Union refuted claims that they are financing electoral programmes to influence the outcome of the 2017 General Election, saying rather that they were only supporting Kenya's bid to have free, fair and credible polls.
During his speech on Jamhuri Day (December 12), President Kenyatta accused unnamed foreigners of pumping in billions of money “in the guise of civic education,” but for which funds were meant to influence a regime change.
A week later, the Kenyan government barred a United States-backed NGO, International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES), from conducting a Ksh2 billion ($20 million) Kenya Electoral Assistance Programme (KEAP), saying it was unregistered. The funds were provided by the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid).
However US ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec said the allegations were unfounded.
The diplomats on Tuesday rejected the accusations on interference, saying their support is only to strengthen electoral systems and citizen participation.
“To be clear, we do not provide electoral assistance to any organisation, governmental or non-governmental, to influence the election results for any side, political party, or candidate,” the envoys said.
“Rather, our assistance supports the Kenyan people to independently exercise their right to vote and have their voice heard. The Kenyan people alone have the sovereign right to choose their leaders, and we fully respect this right.”
The UNDP has been involved in similar programmes since 2014 in what it says was on Kenya’s request to support the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
In July 2015, UNDP launched a programme known as Strengthening the Electoral Processes in Kenya (SEPK) to run until 2018 and meant to provide “technical support to the IEBC and other related government institutions, and encouraging broad-based citizen participation in the electoral process.”
According to the agency, this project was approved and signed by the National Treasury after “extensive consultation with various stakeholders.”
In February this year, UNDP signed a €5 million ($5.2 million) agreement with the European Union under the SEPK to support the commission as it prepares for the elections.
“Readiness of the IEBC and other stakeholders remains crucial in cementing development progress towards national targets as outlined in Vision 2030 and other national planning frameworks, as well as regional and international development targets such as the SDGs,” said UNDP Regional Representative Michel Balima in Nairobi at the time.
At the time, IEBC chairman Issack Hassan said the money will complement Treasury’s funding to the commission, adding that it would help double its officials to conduct mass voter registration across 24,559 centres in 1,450 wards across the country.
UNDP has also been involved in a programme known as Amkeni Wakenya, which has been running since 2008 to promote participation of all communities in elections and is mainly channelled through civil societies.