Top Turkish diplomat, Deniz Eke, shares her thoughts on the democratic space in Kenya

Former Turkish Ambassador to Kenya, Her Excellency Ambassador, Deniz Eke. (George Tubei)
  • Kenya has just emerged from a grueling two electoral processes, a first in the history of Kenya and which comes packed with lessons and gains.
  • Since the clamor of independence in the sixties, many African countries have recorded significant improvement in governance with many African countries such as Kenya even promulgating a new constitution.

On September 1st, Kenya become the first country in Africa and fourth in the world to nullify a presidential election after the Kenyan Supreme Court cited massive illegalities and irregularities.

“A declaration is here that the president elections held on 8th August was not conducted in accordance with the constitution and therefore it is invalid, null and void” Chief Justice David Maraga read the verdict.

A few days prior to the August general elections, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) ICT manager in charge of the computerised voting system Chris Msando, was abducted, tortured and brutally murdered raising fears from Kenyans and international bodies that the Kenyan election may have been compromised.

Kenya’s democratic drama did not end there, however, one of Kenya’s top electoral commissioners resigned barely seven days to the fresh Presidential elections scheduled for October 26th.

Roselyne Akombe resigned and fled to the United States claiming that she won’t be part of the "mockery".

The opposition fraternity, National Super Alliance (NASA) led by Raila Odinga boycotted the fresh elections and urged their supporter to stay away from the polling stations citing no electoral reforms done to guarantee free, fair and credible elections.

This coupled with government crackdown on Non-Governmental Organization a few days after the fresh elections had many people worried that maybe Kenya which is a model for many African countries and has made tremendous progress over the years in opening up its democratic space and media landscape was perhaps sliding back to its dark era of one single party state and violent crackdown on dissidents.

So in a bid to find out whether democracy in Kenya is growing or shutting down, Business Insider SSA recently had a candid conversation with Turkish Ambassador to Kenya, Her Excellency Ambassador, Deniz Eke to seek her thoughts on democracy in Kenya.

“I think and I will be speaking more on a personal basis, definitely there are universal criteria for democracies but I don’t think there is a single model or a single standard of democracy that currently exist or should exist,"

Since the clamor of independence in the sixties, many African countries have recorded significant improvement in governance with many African countries such as Kenya even promulgating a new constitution to secure the gains of democracy and freedoms, something the world should take note of and appreciate that true change is a slow but constant process and every country has its journey to walk.

“I believe that democracy is a constantly evolving process and if you looked at countries who claim to have the best democracies in the world they do have problems’ with their own democracies so I believe it is better to look at democracy as a constantly evolving process which there is no perfection, they are definitely some shared criteria’s but no perfection for anybody”

Ambassador Eke reckons that the international community should while striving to hold Kenya and other African countries by the hand in their democratic journey it should also give room for self-discovery and self-determination.

“I don’t believe that the government and the democratic systems of one country would exactly be the same for another country as we were watching the recently concluded electoral process in Kenya we were confident that the Kenyan people by interacting with each other by talking to each other, sometimes by confronting each other, sometimes through softer language sometimes through harsher language will find the best possible way for themselves which eventually I believe was realized”

“I don’t think any country including Turkey can be a model or should be a model of democracy for Kenya, they may be areas where we can inspire you know in our electoral systems because we have also faced many challenges and the way we solved those challenges may inspire the Kenyan people but I don’t see my country being in a position to be active in Kenyan politics or create models for Kenya, Kenya should create its own models”

Despite democratic challenges Kenya faces and continues to face, the country has also made tremendous strides which should be celebrated if not emulated.

“I believe one of the biggest strengths of the Kenyan people is that you are able to discuss issues, sometimes the language used may not be very pleasing to everyone but you still continue discussing”

The Kenyan media which is one of the most vibrant on the continent has also over the years helped shaped democracy and human rights freedom by keeping the government in check and educating the public.

“ You also have a very vibrant media which can raise topics and I think when I compare it with the other periods during the recent elections the media behaved more responsibly and tried to be a constructive force”

She adds that the international community should act more as a partner than a patron while guiding and advising Kenya on how it can further improve on its democratic track record and world standing.

“When I look at Kenya if we give Kenya the space and opportunity, I believe the Kenyan people the Kenyan democracy will find the right path for itself and if there are issues to be corrected throughout that process Kenya will correct those issues themselves, the Kenyans will do that”

So, in the midst of all these electoral challenges, however, just like a baby first falls down before learning how to walk, Ambassador Eke chooses to be optimistic and believes Kenya has come of age and it is on the right path to democracy.

“I have full confidence that in the next election period there will be thought of the experiences that Kenya has passed in the past and very recently, I have had several interactions with Kenyans who have stressed enough to me that the experiences of 2007 should never be repeated which is a very good sign since it shows that the Kenyan people own their country and their democracy in a way that they have learnt from their past, I would have been worried if the history would have been forgotten so I think that is not the case for Kenyans, you have this common sense of looking forward to the future but drawing experiences and memories from the past which is a very good approach in improving Kenya’s democracy and democratic institutions”

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