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EU deploys Kenya election observers, warns against possible violence

Nairobi, Kenya | AFP |  The EU warned Monday of possible violence in Kenya’s elections as it deployed observers ahead of the August 8 poll pitting President Uhuru Kenyatta against his longtime rival Raila Odinga.

The European Union said the threat of poll clashes which pushed Kenya to the brink 10 years ago, could not be dismissed.

“It is no secret that there are concerns about the possible outbreak of violence. This is not inevitable,” said Marietje Schaake, head of the EU Election Observation Mission, as she promised “an honest and impartial assessment” of the coming vote.

With violence “everybody loses,” said the Dutch member of the European Parliament.

Kenyans will next month choose a new president as well as parliamentarians and senators, county governors and assembly members.

The vote comes a decade after a disputed election in 2007 led to the deaths of over 1,100 people, while more than 600,000 more were displaced.

The last election, in 2013, was mostly peaceful and this year’s poll will be a re-run of that competition between the incumbent Kenyatta and Odinga, who has missed out in three previous attempts at the presidency.

Odinga has repeatedly claimed the government is scheming to steal the election, cheating him of victory.

In a statement Monday his Orange Democratic Party (ODM) urged observers, including the EU, to take note of what it said were “deliberate” efforts to tamper with the voter register.

Audit firm KPMG said in a report last month that there may be as many as one million dead people still on the list of 19.6 million voters.

The initial 30-strong EU team is among a host of international and national observers being deployed across Kenya ahead of the vote.

Also on Monday advocacy group Human Rights Watch said it had received reports of threats and voter intimidation in Naivasha, a flashpoint town in 2007 and one of the potential hotspots in this year’s election.

“All Kenyans should be able to take part in free and fair elections … without fear of violence,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at HRW, calling on authorities to investigate the allegations.

 

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