Former president Thabo Mbeki was in a jovial mood on Friday morning as he called on African Union (AU) election observers to intervene should things go wrong in Kenya’s polls on Tuesday.
Amidst predictions that some violence could occur, Mbeki, who heads the AU Elections Observation Mission to the country, said the AU as well as Kenyans themselves were hoping for "free, fair, credible, peaceful elections".
Mbeki said even as Kenyans have learnt "their own lessons from their own history" of violent elections in the past, some of the candidates have said the AU would be the first port of call, should complications arise.
"So what I’m basically saying is that in this deployment, we do need to do observation, but we should also bear in mind that the contestants may very well approach you because you are AU observers, to say that, ‘we have a problem, can you help us resolve it’."
Peaceful, credible, free and fair elections
Mbeki said: "We can’t observe something going wrong and say: ‘oh, our task is to observe and then report it. Once we notice it, surely we have to say: ‘this is wrong please don’t do it.’ Because it’s going to impact negatively on the elections. We don’t want to be that observer that will observe and then write a negative report. Because our task would be to have a peaceful, credible, free and fair elections."
Mbeki was warmly received by the observers and cracked a few jokes, but walked somewhat stiffly, looking his 75 years.
The AU observer mission consists of 90 members and have been in Kenya’s capital to receive training.
Mbeki said it was important that they be deployed as soon as possible – over the weekend – to Kenya’s 47 counties to observe Tuesday’s poll.
Mbeki came to Kenya a few days ago to speak to the principal candidates for the presidential election – President Uhuru Kenyatta will be vying with opposition leader Raila Odinga in a race that could be close – as well as with the judiciary, and they all said they wanted to see the elections go well.
Kenyatta and Odinga are expected to have their closing rallies on Saturday, as campaigning by law has to end 48 hours ahead of the polls opening.