Monday, November 26, 2007

Kenyan Police Vow to Protect Women Candidates in General Elections

NAIROBI 23 November 2007 Sapa-AFP


Kenyan police vowed Friday to protect women standing in year-end general elections who are increasingly becoming the targets of political violence.

At least 20 female candidates have been assaulted in recent weeks, raising fears ahead of the December 27 polls, the Nairobi-based Education Centre for Women in Democracy think-tank said.

"Accordingly, the police will ensure that all female politicians get appropriate security in their campaigns," police chief Major General Hussein Mohamed Ali told a press conference.

"For the other contestants, anyone who incites violence or in any way targets other female candidates must be prepared to face the full might of the law," he added.

Violence marred last week's parliamentary primaries across Kenya, prompting foreign diplomats to call for restraint.

"I wish to caution politicians and their supporters against
attempting to prevent competitors from presenting their nomination papers by engaging in hooliganism or even abducting their opponents," Ali said.

"These are very serious offences, some of which attract capital punishment."

At least 20 people have been reported killed since July in
election-related violence, according to the state-run Kenya National Commission for Human Rights.

The police chief also renewed warnings against politicians plotting violence after at least 100 clubs, machetes, and other weapons were found in a vehicle assigned to senior water official Raphael Wanjala.

Police have since summoned Wanjala.

The Nakumatt supermarket chain said it was limiting sales of garden tools and kitchen utensils as police investigate reports that youths had bought hundreds of machetes from one of its outlets.

Polls put Raila Odinga slightly ahead of President Mwai Kibaki in the election race while Kalonzo Musyoka, a former foreign minister, trails the front-runners.

Some 14 million Kenyans are eligible to cast ballots in the polls which will be monitored by the European Commission, the African Union, the Commonwealth and a raft of local civil groups.

NAIROBI, Kenya 23 November 2007 Sapa-AP


Police on Friday summoned a politician for questioning after more than 100 weapons were found in his official car, amid concern over political violence with just over a month to go before general elections.

At about 4 a.m. Thursday, police at a road block stopped a
government car issued to Water Resources Assistant Minister Raphael Wanjala in Naivasha, 150 kilometers (90 miles) from Nairobi. Police found 30 swords, 30 clubs, 30 bows and 30 arrows inside, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media on the issue.

Police Commissioner Mohamed Hussein Ali said Wanjala had been
summoned to explain what he knew about the weapons. Attempts to reach Wanjala for comment Friday were unsuccessful because his cell phone was switched off.

"I assure all Kenyans that cases of electoral violence will be dealt with decisively," Ali told journalists Friday.

Ali also said that politicians and their supporters would be charged with a capital offense if they engaged in hooliganism or tried and abduct their opponents.

Kenyans go to the polls on Dec. 27 to elect a president, a new parliament and new local government councils. The election is likely to be a close contest between President Mwai Kibaki and his biggest challenger, former Cabinet minister Raila Odinga.

On Wednesday, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, an independent non-governmental organization, reported that 10 people have been killed in election violence between Oct. 10 and Nov. 19. Following party primaries for parliamentary seats held last weekend, during which there was scattered violence, police charged two politicians with assault.

The police commissioner, however, said the threat of violence ahead of this year's polls was, "not serious."

"This is not the first time we are holding elections ... (the) sporadic occurrences you see are not definitive," Ali said.

Meanwhile, police nationwide are staging a go-slow to protest delays in a pay increase promised to them four months ago.

An officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said officers had stopped using their handheld radios to talk to their superiors, which is normal police procedures.

Ali denied there was a go-slow, but asked police officers to be patient, saying they will receive the Cabinet-approved increases.

At present, a police constable earns a monthly salary of 10,000 shillings (US$154; ¤104), excluding allowances, and the police commissioner earns 300,000 shillings (US$4,630; ¤3,122).

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