Domestic Election observation in Kenya gained prominence as a critical aspect of entrenching democratic after the introduction of multi party politics in 1992. The first election monitoring initiative was NEMU which deployed 10,000 people to observe the 1992 general elections. Having been set up solely for the purpose of observing the conduct of elections on the polling day, the group was disbanded soon after the publication and dissemination of an Observation Report titled: “The Multi-Party General Elections in Kenya 29th December 1992.” All the subsequent elections in 1997, 2002, 2005 referendum on the constitution and the 2007 elections were all observed by different civil society groups and faith-based institutions and in each instance, the group disbanded immediately after the release of the election observation report.
Whereas this served the purpose of making a statement on the conduct of elections in Kenya, the strategy was found wanting and the ad hoc nature of these initiatives posed a number of challenges to domestic observation. These included the inability to follow-up on the recommendations of the observation report, inability to undertake comprehensive observation of the entire electoral cycle, the chronic challenges of infancy including, inter alia, limited time for coalition members to understand and harmonize each other’s backgrounds and modes of operation as well as the inability to attract sustained funding . The Report of the Independent Review Commission on the General Elections held in Kenya on 27 December 2007 (IREC Report) and which considered electioneering in Kenya holistically as a response to the post election violence that rocked the country after the disputed 2007 elections, recommended that a permanent election observation platform be set up to address some of these inherent weakness of ad hoc election monitoring groups. This was the genesis of the Elections Observation Group (ELOG).
ELOG was formally established in April 2010 after the conclusion and ratification of a Memorandum of Understanding by its founding members. The membership of the ELOG’s Steering Committee has grown from an original five members to the present eleven, comprising veteran election observation organizations in Kenya with expertise and experience in various aspects of the democratic processes in the country. They are:
- Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC);
- Centre for Governance and Development (CGD);
- Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (CRECO);
- Ecumenical Centre for Justice and Peace (ECJP);
- Institute for Education in Democracy (IED);
- International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA);
- National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK);
- Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM);
- United Disabled Persons of Kenya (UDPK); and,
- Youth Agenda (YAA).
ELOG’s premier observation assignment was the 2010 referendum where it deployed 10,000 general observers countywide and 702 Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) observers in sampled polling stations across the country. In discharging its mandate, ELOG adopted three methodologies of observation, namely, general observation, PVT and observation of the pre-referendum environment, which complemented each other.
ELOG is the first of domestic election observation initiative in Kenya to incorporate modern technological methodologies of observation. The organization piloted PVT, a scientific, systematic, fast and advanced methodology for collecting, transmitting analyzing and projecting alternative elections results to verify official results announced by Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs), during the referendum, ELOG was able to rapidly, objectively and scientifically verify the accuracy of the referendum official results. ELOG published and disseminated a timely report on the observation of 2010 referendum on the proposed constitution titled: “The People’s Verdict”.
Premised on the experience gathered in the observation of the 2010 referendum using the parallel tabulation methodology, ELOG put together a two year plan to monitor and observe the March 2013 election. The plan broadly involved deployment of observers in the pre-election period as well as election-day observers. To achieve this, ELOG sought and secured financial and other resources from various donors namely NDI, DFID, Embassy of Finland, Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands and the Danish Embassy. For the long term observation component, ELOG recruited 290 constituency supervisors, one per constituency as well as deployment of observers at the ward level in targeted/mapped areas totalling 302 observers. These officers were trained and equipped with checklists thus enabling them to provide monthly reports on the pre-election environment in their localities. During the March 4th elections, ELOG successfully conducted its observation of the conduct of the elections through 7,000 general observers and 1000 PVT observers who were deployed across the country.
Additionally, ELOG also was able to observe the voter registration exercise of 14.3 million Kenyans using the biometric voter registration and party nominations in the months of December 2012 and January 2013. Through the PVT, ELOG was able to project the results of the presidential election. The findings of these observation exercises were widely disseminated through the network’s newsletter, as well as targeted meetings with stakeholders and media briefs.
Building on the history and experiences of election observation in Kenya, and the achievements so far, ELOG aspires to be the leader in comprehensive observation of elections in Kenya, the East Africa region and the wider African region. This gradual expansion of reach and influence is premised on the fact that the electoral experiences and challenges for most African countries have been quite similar and therefore Kenya will stand to gain from the other countries while making its contribution to better electoral observation practices in Africa through the sharing of ELOG’s experiences.