Kenya polls: Ex-Botswana president to lead Commonwealth observers

Tuesday July 12 2022

Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana, in Kenyan capital Nairobi on February 28, 2013. He has been appointed new chair of the committee that decides winners of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Former Botswana President Festus Mogae will lead a team of election observers from the Commonwealth for the Kenyan polls scheduled for August 9.

Mogae, who led Botswana from 1998 to 2008, with a team of 20 poll observers will arrive in Nairobi on August 2, the Commonwealth Secretariat announced on Tuesday.

Known as the Commonwealth Observer Group, it represents the ‘Club’ of the UK and its former colonies, as well as Mozambique, Rwanda, Togo and Gabon; who have since joined the Commonwealth.

Zeinab Badawi, a journalist and President of School of Oriental and African Studies in the UK and Justice James Ogoola, a former Principal Judge of the High Court in Uganda are also part of the team.

Others are Dr Anne Gallagher, the Director-General of Commonwealth Foundation in Australia; Mr Darrell Bradley, a former Mayor of Belize City; Dr Simon Munzu, a former UN Deputy Special Representative for Côte d'Ivoire; former Gambian legislator Halifa Sallah; and Mr Jerald Joseph, a former Human Rights Commissioner in Malaysia.

In addition, former Maltese foreign minister Dr Evarist Bartolo; Maryan Street, a former Minister of Housing in New Zealand; Ms Idayat Hassan, the Director, Centre for Democracy and Development in Nigeria; and Prof Attahiru Jega, the former Chairman of the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission are also in the team.


Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said the observers will contribute to the efforts by Kenyan authorities to make the polls transparent.

“Election observation is an essential component of our efforts to support member countries to strengthen the processes, culture, and institutions of democracy, and to enable citizen participation and representation at all levels,” she said in a statement.

Read: Misinformation rears ugly head as Kenya poll campaigns heat up

The team will travel to Kenya at the invitation of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Deputy Secretary-General Dr Arjoon Suddhoo will be part of the advance team that arrives on July 16 to “meet key stakeholders, including the election management body, political parties, civil society groups, media, and other international observers.

“They will travel across the country to build a comprehensive picture on the conduct of the process and to observe the campaign and the electoral preparations,” the Commonwealth said.

The Commonwealth said the entire observation group will also include Nighat Dad, founder and executive director of Digital Rights Foundation in Pakistan; Mrs Marcella Samba-Sesay, the chairperson of Sierra Leone’s National Election Watch; Professor Mandla Mchunu, former chief election officer in South Africa;  Dr Victor Shale, the elections and governance expert from South Africa;  Mrs Fern Narcis-Scope, the chief election officer at the  Elections and Boundaries Commission in Trinidad and Tobago; British House of Lords member Denise Kingsmill; Member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom, Mr Mark Stephens, a British lawyer; and Dr Chaloka Beyani, a Zambian legal expert.

The group’s recommendations on the election will be non-binding, but form part of a tradition the 56-member group has established in the last 40 years, to seek improvement in the conduct of polls.

Read: Commonwealth sends team to observe Ghana elections

The Commonwealth Observer Group has watched over 160 polls in 40 member countries.