As Kenyans enter the final stretch of this electoral cycle, the Centre for Multiparty Democracy and the Kofi Annan Foundation urge candidates at all levels to pledge to appropriate and peaceful online behaviour to ensure that Kenyans once again have the opportunity to select their leaders free of intimidation, threats and violence.
Last week in Nairobi, Kenya, representatives of the four Presidential candidates and members of political parties met under the auspices of the National Integration and Cohesion Commission to sign the Political Decency and Peace Charter.
In doing so, they committed to running peaceful campaigns, devoid of violence, hate speech and discrimination, and based on the principles of leadership and integrity enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution.
At the same time, they committed to the Mkenya Diama Leadership Pledge, confirming their responsibility to run value-based campaigns, abstain from violence and adhere to electoral due process.
Such pre-election commitments are becoming increasingly common and can be a powerful tool to reduce tensions in countries with a history of fraught elections and political violence- particularly following a contested electoral outcome.
Digital Behaviour: The missing piece
While effective, many of these pledges speak mainly to the real-world activities and responsibilities of candidates and political parties; how to behave at rallies, for example, or to refrain from providing monetary or other inducements to influence an electoral outcome.
However, as social media platforms play an increasingly central role in electoral campaigns, pre-electoral pledges should also include how candidates and Parties behave online.
The Transatlantic Commission for Electoral Integrity developed a Pledge for Election Integrity which sought to address problematic online behaviour, such as the dissemination of disinformation, use of deepfakes, and increased transparency over coordinated online activity and the use of online political advertising. This Pledge was endorsed by the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age, and over the past year, the Kofi Annan Foundation has been pleased to support the Centre for Multiparty Democracy as it sought to develop a similar, Kenya-specific pledge for digital behaviour.
Following a months-long multi-stakeholder consultative process, we have identified a few short points which can drastically affect the atmosphere in which the elections take place. Of particular importance is the commitment to avoid all forms of gender-based violence, which is, unfortunately, a serious issue in Kenya.
As Kenyans enter the final stretch of this electoral cycle, we urge candidates at all levels to pledge to appropriate and peaceful online behaviour to ensure that Kenyans once again have the opportunity to select their leaders free of intimidation, threats and violence.
Support and share The Digital Pledge
This campaign has been made possible thanks to the support of the United Nations Democracy Fund.