Western countries urge Kenya to take steps for smooth polls

AP News
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Posted: May 04, 2016 1:31 PM

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan voters must have confidence that the electoral commission and judiciary are impartial and efficient ahead of polls next year, 11 diplomats from western countries said Wednesday.

In a joint statement the diplomats, who included U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec, said with elections in 15 months, it is time for Kenyans to consider the steps needed to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections.

Kenya's main opposition leaders, protestant churches and Central Organization of Trade Unions have called for the disbandment of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission on the grounds of corruption and alleged bias.

Opposition leaders former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Senator Moses Wetangula were tear-gassed late last month as they led hundreds of supporters to the electoral commission offices to demand that it is disbanded for being biased.

Some commissioners of the electoral commission have been named in a case in which two executives of British printing firm Smith and Ouzman Ltd were sentenced to a total of five years after being convicted in the U.K. for making corrupt payments to individuals in various countries including Kenya to win business for the company.

Violence following a disputed Dec. 2007 presidential election, which the international community said was flawed, killed more than 1,000 and forced 600,000 others to flee their homes.

The violence started when opposition supporters disputed the results from Electoral Commission of Kenya— the predecessor of the current election commission — declaring former President Mwai Kibaki the winner of the presidential elections against opposition leader Raila Odinga. Street protests degenerated into ethnic violence.

At the center of the violence in the Rift Valley deep-seated animosity between the two major ethnic groups that live there over land distribution also fueled the violence.