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U.S. Slams Travel Ban on Kenya's Elections Commission Members

All 21 members of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) say they will not resign despite local and international pressure for them to step down. Kenyans, including the Kriegler Commission, have blamed the ECK for bungling the results of last December's general elections, which left over a thousand people dead and about 500 thousand wounded.

Thursday, the United States reportedly imposed a travel ban on the commissioners. Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula accused some western ambassadors in Kenya of practicing activism under the guise of conducting diplomatic business.

Ndungo Wainaina is the director of the Kenyan Center for Policy and Conflict. From Nairobi, he told VOA some European countries also want the Kenyan electoral commission to step down.

"On Tuesday, the deputy head of mission (at the U.S. Embassy in Kenya) Pamela Slutz, did meet with the ECK chairman and actually it is reported that she did expressly asked Samuel Kivuitu (ECK chairman) to resign. Today the European delegation here in Nairobi did meet the commission and actually the message was the same. In fact it is reported that in the delegation one of the representatives was forthright and actually demanded the immediately resignation of the chairman and his team," he said.

Kenyan foreign affairs minister Moses Wetangula Thursday criticized the conduct of western diplomats who visited the ECK chairman. He reportedly accused some western ambassadors in Kenya of practicing activism under the guise of conducting diplomatic business.

Wainaina said there seems to be a split between the two camps that make up Kenya's current unity government.

"Apparently it is very clear that there is a clear division in the coalition government in terms of their positions on the electoral commission. They appear apparently to defer the stay of the ECK. Within the Kenyan public, there is a huge consensus that the ECK must actually resign," Wainaina said.

Following their meeting Thursday the ECK members said they would not resign in spite of local and international pressure.

But Wainaina said it is only a matter of time before the commissioners will yield to the demands of Kenyans.

"It is very clear that it is only a matter of time. They can continue putting on a fight but I don't it is sustainable at all, and the groups that appear to support them are in the minority, and I think the international community is actually taking that cue. Kenyan citizens actually have been demanding since day one even before the Kriegler Commission was set up, for the commission to go home. And therefore there is no way they are going to survive it," he said.

Following the meeting Thursday, the commissioners reportedly said their fate should be decided by the president of Kenya who appointed them.

Wainaina said the role of President Kibaki does not feature prominently in the demand for the resignation of the ECK.

"The matter of the president deciding does not arrive at all. What is being demanded here is the question of accountability and demolishing the culture of impunity that has actually embedded itself in Kenyan public life forever. So therefore he has no choice. He has to live by what the majority of Kenyans want," Wainaina said.

In another development, Kenyan authorities have charged Andrew Mwangura, the program coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Program for making false statements.

Mwangura was quoted as saying that the military equipment on board the hijacked ship MV Faina was destined for Southern Sudan.

Wainaina said Kenyan authorities are trying silent Mr. Mwangura about the real story about the cargo aboard the hijacked ship.

"I think what Kenya is trying to do is that they are trying to cover the whole thing up because they feel strongly that if it finally emerges that the military equipment were meant for southern Sudan, it's going to be an embarrassment to Kenya because Kenya would have appeared to have facilitated the violation of the UN embargo on military equipment to Sudan," Wainaina said.