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Aiming to safeguard and nurture democracy through educating voters about issues of corruption
History
1997 and 2002 Clean Election Campaigns

2002 CEC

The response that came following the 1997 elections was an encouragement to keep up the momentum. The campaigners started getting ready for the key 2002 presidential and parliamentary elections. This time, many other groups joined the Clean Election Campaign.

The Kenya Domestic Observation Programme invited the churches, the Hindu Council of Kenya, and the Supreme Council of Muslims to monitor the elections. Another partner was Transparency International’s Kenya chapter. The operation - funded by the European Union - involved 20,000 Kenyans acting as observers: one for each polling station. This helped in greatly reducing the election rigging.

Loopholes witnessed in the 1997 elections were sealed. This was done by fighting to have the votes counted at the polling stations rather than moving the ballot boxes, which would have increased the opportunity for them to be interfered with.

The team of Initiatives of Change managed to reach every region of the country; messages that would have jeopardized fair elections were neutralized by the CEC. The CEC activists distributed 140,000 leaflets and spoke on hundreds of occasions on radio and TV talk shows, in schools, and at public gatherings. “CEC called on the electorate to pledge that they would not be party to any violence or corruption and that they would report corrupt practices.”

Nairobi-based lawyer Francis Kimani commented in For a Change (April-May 2003). “I still remember how a congregation of about 3,000 people at the Christ the King Cathedral, Nakuru, was excited when Joseph Karanja of CEC talked to them for ten minutes. The congregation was left fully convinced that they could change things in Kenya”

This time the Clean Election Campaign did even better. It turned out to be the most peaceful and incident-free election in the history of Kenya. The power of corruption in elections was broken. The Kenya African National Union, the party that had been in power since independence, lost the election, as did the former president’s preferred candidate. A new government was voted in on the basis that it was going to fight corruption. Despite the fact that there was no clear method of handing over power, the whole affair was a success. The new government immediately sacked many corrupt officials and judiciary. The chairman of the Kenya chapter of Transparency International was appointed by the new president to oversee and implement his anticorruption programme.

The ethos against corruption continued after the elections, also with ordinary Kenyans. Since the elections the Clean Kenya Campaign (also initiated by Initiatives of Change) has been taking root in the country. The campaign asks Kenyans to speak up when acts of corruption occur, and has experienced notable success. Press reports speak of a growing number of cases where civilians forced police officers to return bribes. Karanja said that people are now holding their government accountable by asking questions. “The country is not clean yet, but at least something is happening. We won’t stop until the job is done”, he commented.

Based on the pioneering work done in Kenya since 1997, Clean Elections Campaigns were mounted in Sierra Leone, at the first democratic elections since the war, and in Ghana. With the help of CEC, a Clean Africa Campaign was launched in 2003

1997 CEC

After having heard of the effectiveness of a Clean Election Campaign project in Taiwan in 1992, Joseph Karanja brought together ten friends for a weekend conference to consider the situation in Kenya. As a result, they decided to launch the Kenya Clean Election Campaign (CEC) ahead of the National elections in December 1997. He was convinced that it was the right thing to address the corruption, violence, and apathy that had become a permanent feature in the elections. They decided to start early because of the electoral process in the country; the government used to get the Central Bank to print money to fund the elections - not for their operations but for the bribes by intimidating people or bribing them, thus having the election tied up a year in advance.

The group approached religious leaders first. They talked with the heads of the Catholic, Anglican, and other churches and the religious leaders of the Muslims. Three points were put forward in these talks: 

  • to ask people to commit themselves to accept no bribes, nor vote for anyone who offered a bribe
  • to encourage people to take responsibility for the integrity of the voting process in the voting booths
  • to encourage honest men and women to stand for election to parliament

The religious leaders gave their full backing to this and encouraged CEC speakers to address their congregations, which over the succeeding months the CEC did. This proved a most effective way of reaching the ordinary voter, because on praying days churches are always full in Kenya. A group of businessmen helped to finance advertising the campaign in the Kenyan press and a printer undertook to print hundreds of thousands of leaflets without charge.

Joseph Karanja, Lawyer and co-leader, Clean Election Campaign, Kenya. (Photo: Mike Lowe)The 22 Catholic bishops invited all Kenyans, especially the eight million Catholics, to support the campaign by signing the pledge form. The pledge, which was part of the leaflets, consisted of the promises not to accept bribes, when possible to prevent and expose actions that would distort or rig the election results, and not to take part in any violence. In all, over 700,000 pledges were signed and returned. The campaign leaflets also outlined fourteen qualities of a good leader, all of them non-political qualities, as a background for voting choices.

The campaign became extremely popular and quickly grew into a national movement that many of Kenya’s 33 million people took part in. Ordinary Kenyans invited campaign people to their homes to talk to various groups about the campaign. The people hosted campaigners wherever they went. The entire country was mobilized to support the campaign and it gave an opportunity to every Kenyan to play their part in curing the rot in the country.

The media and other organizations also gave their support to the campaign. For the government, it was hard to fight against it, because they could not openly come out against a campaign that was fighting corruption. They made the campaign wholly a positive one. They did not seek to blame any particular party or individual but launched an equal challenge to all leaders not to take part in corruption.

The apathy in the country, a result of the corrupt system, was broken. The campaign encouraged people to approach good leaders in their areas to stand as candidates. Furthermore, so they did. 30 candidates, who probably would not have stood for election but for the encouragement of Joseph Karanja and his colleagues because of the perceived corrupt nature of politics, won office. Eleven government ministers and 26 deputy ministers lost their seats and President Arap Moi’s majority in parliament was reduced to four. Some members of his own party were no longer simply yes-men and his dictatorial power was reduced.