11 January 2013

Kenya: Rivals Meet to Agree On Poll Venues

Nairobi — The country's three major political coalitions are in talks on how to share polling stations during next week's countrywide nominations.

Officials from the Jubilee, CORD and Amani coalitions met at a Nairobi hotel for a better part of Friday to agree how the nominations will be done without creating conflict.

According to ODM elections board chairman Franklin Bett, the officials agreed to meet again on Saturday to finalise the plans.

Bett said: "We have come here to discuss how to conduct smooth nominations and have agreed in principle that we are going to talk further and agree on which coalition takes which polling station. Our technical teams will spend the whole of Saturday mapping out the stations so that we know who is going to use which station.

According to TNA chairman Johnson Sakaja who represented the Jubilee Alliance at the meeting, the nominations set for next Thursday should be peaceful and parties should co-operate.

"We are committed to ensuring that January 17 is peaceful day and a day that reassures Kenya and the world that political maturity and tolerance has found its place in our country and that we can conduct our affairs well. All parties are committed to a transparent process but we must cooperate," Sakaja said.

Police have urged all the parties to work jointly and ensure peace during the nomination exercise.

Most political parties which have set their nominations on January 17 are grappling with the dilemma of venues to be used for the exercise with no decision having been issued whether primary schools can be used for the exercise.

Sakaja said that the technical team meeting on Saturday will also explore how to share the other available venues should primary schools - which act as polling stations during elections- remain in session next week.

"Thursday might be a school day and that being the case there will be limited venues and we might find ourselves (coalitions) booking same venues if we do not agree early," added the TNA chairman in a meeting that was also attended by Maria Mbeneka representing the Amani Coalition.

Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo has said schools might be shut next Thursday to provide venues for the nominations.

He insisted that it will be inevitable to cancel school activities on the nomination day unless the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) agrees to extend the January 18 nomination deadline.

The minister said: "My request to the IEBC was that they consider extending the deadline to the January 20 so that nominations can be conducted on Saturday and Sunday but we have to make a decision. I will myself welcome after consultations that the two principals direct that primary schools be postponed for that one day."

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