, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 26 – With just over a week to the referendum, the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) has issued an alert over the resurgence of electoral related violence.
Chairman Issack Hassan pointed an accusing finger at politicians saying “they are spoiling Kenya’s road to electoral reforms” by perpetuating the culture of political propaganda and incitement.
“Political campaigns in Kenya have become an industry of insults. From the start we keep insulting and inciting,” said Mr Hassan who was speaking at the launch of a book on the 2007 general election.
“They (politicians) tend to continue as if it’s business as usual,” said Mr Hassan.
Groups supporting the proposed Constitution have clashed with those opposing it in Machakos, Kirinyaga and Kakamega in the ongoing referendum campaigns. Over the weekend, two groups of the Yes camp clashed in Sirisia, western Province. Violence was also reported in the recent by-elections in Matuga and South Mugirango. During the Matuga poll, one a civic leader was shot and his vehicle burnt.
“We need to have a cultural change on the part of the political class and the Kenyan voters,” he said.
Mr Hassan said the country is yet to learn from the post-election violence in what he terms as continued incitement to violence.
“We need a collective will on the part of everybody in Kenya to ensure a peaceful and fair referendum and thereafter 2012 elections,” charged the Chairman.
The wake-up call came as a group of Kenyan scholars called for the classification of electoral offences as capital crimes and the imposition of harsh punishment. Researcher Karuti Kanyinga who has co-edited the book ‘Tensions and Reversals in democratic Transitions’ said this would clean up the messy political environment.
“Lawyers may argue against this, but by interfering with free and fair elections you are stealing the people’s will, you are stifling the public voice,” said Dr Kanyinga.
The book identified massive irregularities and discrepancies with the figures released by the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya in 2007. The book has been authored by 24 scholars and consultants who document the events surrounding the 2007 election fiasco. They focus on the politics of ethnicity, financing of elections, media influence, vote tallying and the controversy of boundaries.
The team proposed an alternative vote tallying system to eliminate perennial tallying discrepancies during elections. Dr Kanyinga said electoral monitoring by independent observers should also be embedded in law.
The audit revealed that the money factor in the elections is increasing with indications that politicians and political parties spent over Sh6 billion for the 2007 polls. The analysis revealed that each MP spent an average of Sh7 million during the campaigns.