Concerns over threats to Kenyan voters

July 15, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Jul 15 – The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and the Truth Commission have expressed concerns over reports of voter intimidation in parts of the country, ahead of next month’s referendum on the proposed Constitution.

Speaking the beginning of a two-day meeting for all the Agenda 4 commissions, Florence Jaoko of the KNCHR and Betheul Kiplagat of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission, said they had received reports that some communities in the Rift Valley are being threatened with eviction, if they vote for the new law.

Ms Jaoko said she was concerned that the threats might lead to voter apathy in the August 4 vote.

"It’s important for us to remember these Kenyans who have only their Kenyanness.  These Kenyans who know that their neighbours are going out at night and telling them…be prepared, we are capable of doing these things again," she said.

She told the conference that a group of Internally Displaced Women were planning to move to their ancestral homes after receiving death threats from people they claimed had killed their husbands and children.

"The police were not equipped to be able to protect them from the violations that are likely to occur during the campaign and voting process," she said

Mr Kiplagat called on leaders in both camps to avoid statements that may lead to the polarisation of the country.

"Kenya had not been so much involved in religion getting into the issue of politics but now we see this new ingredient, which is both internal but we see a level of external force, and we think this is a reason for concern," he said.

Speakers urged Kenyans not to let the country slip back to divisions after next month’s referendum.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo assured Kenyans that the government will provide enough security during the vote.

"Read my lips… the government will not accept any violence during the referendum and will use every means necessary to keep peace, if you want to hide in you corner and threaten a fellow Kenyan about the vote on the August 4, I dare you if you are man enough, if you are evil enough I dare you to call my bluff," he said.

Meanwhile, a report commissioned by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, to look into both scenarios of the vote outcome, says the victors must lead by a big margin.

Consultant Duncan Okello said such victory will give legitimacy to the process, while the opposite will give the losing side justification to challenge the review process.

"The margin of a Yes win will weaken the forces of resistance to reforms but the latter may give the losing incentives to dig," he said.

The report says, Kenyans stand to benefit immensely if the proposed Constitution is passed, noting that it will end the culture of political patronage, and provides for enhanced accountability by politicians, civil servants and provincial administration.

Mr Okello said that a No victory scenario will see the stalling of the reform agenda.

“Constitution reform is the most indicative of the reform agenda; if it stalls it will have a stalling effect on all the other commissions, most of which will be clinically alive but operationally dead.”


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