SA keeps watch on Kenya's elections

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pretoria - As Kenyans vote in the first elections under that country’s new constitution, South African Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ebrahim, has reiterated the call for peaceful, fair and democratic elections in that country.

At a media briefing on Monday, Ebrahim said South Africa would watch closely the developments of the elections, stressing that neither the continent nor Kenyans could afford failed elections.

“In recalling the positive developments that have taken place in Kenya since 2007, the South African government hopes that the elections will contribute to the consolidation of democracy and wishes the people of Kenya successful, peaceful and democratic elections,” said Ebrahim.

Ebrahim indicated that South African officials, under the African Union Election Observation Mission, and various other accredited monitoring teams are participating in monitoring the elections.

Today’s elections are the first under Kenya's new constitution, promulgated in 2010. After the last general elections in 2007, inter-ethnic clashes and police violence left about 1 300 people dead and 650 000 displaced.

The AU had to strike a power sharing deal between the two contenders President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

A new constitution was made, which saw the reform of the judiciary and the establishment of a new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

According to local media in Kenya, some 14.3 million voters lined up to vote in the process that kicked off countrywide at 6am. Voting is expected to end at 5pm. 

Voters will also elect 47 senators, 47 governors and other officials in the general election.

The IEBC has set up 33 000 polling stations across the country and about 99 000 police officers have been deployed all over the country.

Eight candidates are competing for the presidency. The leading presidential candidates, Coalition for Reform and Democracy's Raila Odinga, and the candidate of Jubilee Alliance, Uhuru Kenyatta, are locked in a tight presidential contest.

Reports also indicate that at least 14 people have been killed in the last 24 hours in separate incidents in Kenya's Indian Ocean port city Mombasa and northern region.

Inspector General of Police, David Kimaiyo, told journalists in Nairobi that six policemen and six members of the secessionist group, the Mombasa Republic Council (MRC), were killed in Mombasa while two civilians died in the northern town of Garissa.

Kimaiyo said 400 more police officers have been airlifted to the coastal region to reinforce security in the region where the MRC is charging that the coastal people's rights to land and property ownership have been violated.

"We are reinforcing security in the coastal province and all other hotspot areas. About 400 officers are being flown to Mombasa this morning. All police officers are under firm instructions to be keen and on the lookout for any assailants," the police chief said.

Kenya is currently a champion of regional infrastructure projects like the rail, road and oil pipeline projects planned to originate from the Lamu Port in the coastal region and link to Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda.

Any sort of election related violence will raise the risk profile of the country and make it harder to attract investors for such mega projects. –