Kenya’s government has waged a war against campaign funds for the opposition

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NAIROBI- The government has tightened the inflow of international funds to the NASA campaign. The alliance is crying foul that their efforts to fundraise has been targeted by the Uhuru Kenyatta administration.

A multi-agency meeting established under the president’s administration resolved to closely monitor and flag interactions between political parties (read NASA) and foreign donors.  It is alleged that the committee was formed to ensure that NASA has little access to campaign funds from international donors.

The government has tried to restrict some East African countries from playing a role in supporting opposition candidates for the August elections. Raila Odinga and Tanzania’s current president Magufuli are reportedly close friends, it is alleged that Magufuli offered to establish a parallel presidential vote-tallying centre for the opposition in Tanzania due to their lack of confidence in the electoral commission.

NASA’s campaign efforts

In order to complement local fundraising efforts, the NASA coalition approached foreign financiers and special interest groups to support their campaign in what will be recorded in history as Kenya’s most expensive election due to the competitive nature of the presidential race.

Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has reportedly given extreme instructions to all financial institutions, including all the banks, to be on the lookout for any suspicious funds that finds its way into accounts of groups or individuals affiliated with the opposition.

The Central Bank also put stringent measures on the deposit and withdrawal of funds, with those making transactions of Sh1 million and above required to provide details on the source or use of the money.

A source from NASA’s coalition’s resource mobilisation team, disclosed that donations from external financiers will make up 30 percent of the campaign budget. “We will accept help from our friends abroad as long as it is done within the law. Whether such help comes or not, we are sure to mount one of the best-financed and organised campaigns in this part of the world,” he said.

Big money regulations

The Finance Reporting Centre (FRC), an institution created by the government to monitor irregular financial activities has been closely observing NASA’s activities.

However, the government stated that the FRC was monitoring correspondence between Kenya and foreign entities, and insisted no party in particular was targeted.

Interestingly, Parliament suspended the application of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act number 1 of 2017. The Campaign Financing Act will come into force in 2022.

Parliamentary interference

The IEBC expressed concern over the decision of the parliament to suspend the election laws relating to campaign financing. They insist that with the suspension, there will be no limits with campaign budget and expenditure, and political parties will be free to do whatever they want in seeking financial support.

The Campaign Financing Act suspended by the parliament had banned foreigners from making cash contributions to a political party but allows parties to get “technical assistance” from a “foreign agency, or a foreign political party, which shares an ideology” with a Kenyan-registered party.

Government vs “foreign interference”

Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration has been averse to any kind of electoral support from foreign entities which the government described as interference in Kenya’s sovereignty. Sources within his administration have alleged that the president is “shook” due to his dwindling popularity and is afraid that electoral support from foreign donors could enlighten voters enough to vote for the opposition at the polls.

Last year, the government halted the activities of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), citing their illegal status in the country. This happened after President Kenyatta claimed foreigners were pumping in billions of money “in the guise of civic education,” funds he said were meant to influence regime change. The matter was settled in the High Court which stated claims that IFES was unregistered as an NGO were unfounded.

Jubilee party accused the United States of indirectly trying to help the opposition win the presidential elections. The accusation followed the announcement of the scaling back of support for programmes in the ministry of Health worth Sh2.1 billion by the US Ambassador Robert Godec due to corruption in the ministry.

The party found the timing of the announcement suspect.

Despite these measures, Jubilee and NASA will receive campaign donations from foreign donors due to the suspension of the Electoral Act by the parliament. However, the government continues to implement extreme measures in order to stifle funds accessible to opposition parties.

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