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Monday, February 12, 2018, 14:07
Western envoys call for open talks to avert crisis in Kenya
By Xinhua
Monday, February 12, 2018, 14:07 By Xinhua

Activists demonstrate outside the parliament in Nairobi on Feb 08, 2018 to protest against the lack of adequate inclusion of women, youth and the disabled among nominees proposed by Kenyan President to his new cabinet. (TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

NAIROBI - Foreign envoys from 11 Western countries on Sunday called for "sustained, open and transparent" national dialogue to help avert political crisis that has engulfed the East African nation since October 2017 elections.

In a joint statement issued in Nairobi, the envoys from Britain, Germany, United States and Australia among others said such dialogue should be able to build national cohesion and help resolve the deep issues that were sparked by the electoral process.

"We again call for an immediate, sustained, open, and transparent national conversation involving all Kenyans, to build national cohesion, address long-standing issues, and resolve the deep-seated divisions that the electoral process has exacerbated," said the envoys.

According to the envoys, these events follow two elections that left many Kenyans dead and many more livelihoods disrupted

"As partners, we will do all we can to help; but only Kenyans can resolve the country's problems. We are investing in Kenya and have great hope for the future. But Kenyans must summon now all their strength and resolve, reaffirm the Constitution, and put the country back on the path to democracy, prosperity, and security." the statement said.

The Western diplomats who expressed concern about the political developments in Kenya criticized both the government and the Opposition for taking steps that have undermined the country's institutions, and driven wedges among its citizens.

"The government, which should be the guarantor of liberty and freedom of expression for all under the law, has shut down television stations, seized the passports of Opposition leaders, refused to obey court orders, and deported a prominent Opposition lawyer," they said.

"A father of multi-party democracy has made unsubstantiated claims about elections and unilaterally sworn himself as 'President', in deliberate disregard of the Constitution for which he so proudly fought," said the envoys.

According to the envoys, these events follow two elections that left many Kenyans dead and many more livelihoods disrupted.

The government shut down all the four popular television stations after the swearing-in of opposition leader Raila Odinga as the "people's president" on Jan. 30. The stations had to turn to online transmission during the crackdown.

The government, which had disobeyed court orders to restore the transmission of the TV stations, had accused the stations of reneging on an agreement it had with them not to air the opposition fete for security purposes.

However, the government restored transmission to all the stations last week following a round of criticism from both Kenyans and international community.

The diplomats called on the Opposition to accept the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the election of October 26, 2017 which declared Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as the legitimate President and Deputy President.

"The Opposition needs to accept this as the basis for the dialogue that it and many Kenyans want. Stoking and threatening violence are not acceptable, nor are extra-Constitutional measures to seize power," they said.

The envoys said the ambitions of politicians are fundamentally weakening institutions, and breaking the bonds of shared citizenship, which Kenyans have built up patiently over decades.

They urged the government to comply fully with court orders and follow legal process in appealing or contesting them.

"Freedom of expression, freedom of the media, and all civil rights need to be protected. When individuals are arrested, their rights should be respected and due process followed. Citizens have the responsibility to protest non-violently, and security services should avoid unnecessary or excessive use of force," said the diplomats.

Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet has also ignored an order directing him to free opposition lawyer Miguna Miguna who has since been deported to Canada despite protests from the local embassy.

The High Court had ordered the politician to be released on a US$500 cash bail following his arrest at his home. Boinnet also ignored orders to appear in court in person to explain circumstances that also led to Miguna's deportation.

"Whatever the conduct of others, the government has a special duty to protect democratic institutions and adhere to the Constitution and the rule of law at all times." they said.

Meanwhile, lawyers will from Monday launch nationwide Yellow Ribbon Campaign to protest the government's brazen disregard of court orders and violation of the Constitution.

Law Society of Kenya President Isaac Okero said the government's behaviour is a recipe for anarchy because it encourages Kenyans to disrespect the law.

"It should always be the government that demonstrates to the citizens, by its example and conduct, the importance of strictly adhering to and respecting the law. When a government shows contempt for the law it becomes impossible for it to require citizens to respect the law," Okero said in a statement issued late on Saturday.

"Fidelity to the law is the solemn and patriotic obligation of all," Okero said.

The Kenyan lawyers have been using the Yellow Ribbon campaign since 2002 to support constitutional and judicial reforms in the country.

The ribbon may be worn on a person, placed on a vehicle or tied around a tree to symbolize "vibrancy, tenacity and commitment to justice".

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