11 February 2013

Kenya: Campaigns Fixated On Sideshows - KHRC

Nairobi — The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) is now accusing politicians of focusing their agenda on sideshows that risk fanning ethnic passions.

The Commission's Senior Programmes Officer George Morara told journalists on Monday that leaders in the Jubilee, CORD and Amani coalitions had been exploiting issues around the International Criminal Court (ICC) and land to boost their popularity, even though they risked dividing Kenyans along tribal lines.

While making reference to a report on elections monitoring, Morara said that crucial issues touching on the core fabric of the Kenyan society were being underrated and misused in the ongoing political campaigns.

"First it is the attempt to frame the ICC, by both the Jubilee and CORD teams as one of the issues of contestation during the campaigns," he said.

"Second is the attempt to exploit land injustices out of context and without addressing the institutional mechanisms to attend to the same," he added.

The commission also took issue with the use of State resources in campaigns saying politicians' access to them should be halted because it violated the electoral rules and regulations.

KHRC Programme Officer in charge of electoral processes, James Mawira, cited several instances where vehicles belonging to the State were being used to ferry people to-and-from rally venues.

"Politicians allied to both CORD and Jubilee alliances are culpable and some are even disguising government plates with the regular ones," he claimed.

Morara added that politicians had also been using inappropriate language against their opponents in their campaigns, while others were dishing out cash handouts and food to woo potential voters.

The human rights non-governmental organisation also took issue with what it termed as the overt and covert mobilisation of Kenyans along ethnic lines.

KHRC Deputy Executive Director, Davis Malombe, added that the newly formed alliances had introduced new dynamics of tribal divisions.

"While these alliances, particularly CORD, Jubilee and Amani, are based on what is supposed to be mutual political considerations they have on the contrary continued to elicit deep seated ethnic suspicions, especially among the so called larger communities," he alleged.

The KHRC further claimed that illegal gangs and militia groups were also regrouping.

The commission urged the Inspector General of Police to make sure that peace and security prevailed before, during and after the March 4 election.

"For example in Nakuru we have the Blue Boys at Rongai area, in Kibera we have Siafu and what is called 12 Disciples, and in Kisumu we have what they are calling American Marine and China squad," claimed Malombe.

Concerns surrounding civic education also came up, with the KHRC accusing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of holding back the exercise.

"Responses from prospective voters indicate a poor understanding among voters of elective positions and processes under the new Constitution," said KHRC Executive Director Atsango Chesoni.

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