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Kenya Sets Dec. 27 Date for Elections - 2002-10-29

Kenya's Electoral Commission has set December 27 as the date for presidential, parliamentary and local elections. The commission appealed to Kenyans to make it a violence-free election.

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Samuel Kivuitu, appealed to Kenyans to avoid violent election activities and to reject violent candidates.

He praised the leaders of the opposition National Rainbow Coalition for preaching peace at their recent rally. Many people had feared violence would erupt when some 100,000 people attended the meeting in the city's main park. But the rally went ahead peacefully.

Mr. Kivuitu also appealed to politicians to stop hiring thugs to intimidate their opponents.

"There was no trouble at all," he said. "And we expected a lot of trouble. In fact all the shops were closed. There was no violence because in the meeting the leaders told the people don't do anything. Just go home and think. If they do so we will have no violence."

There were allegations of rigging in the 1997 elections because some polling stations opened late, saying they had not received their ballot papers on time.

Mr. Kivuitu promised this will not happen again.

"This time there should be no excuse because ballot papers will be distributed one day, that is on [December] 26, ballot papers will be distributed to the polling station and the officers will sleep there with their ballot papers. So we don't have this excuse of saying oh, you know, there was a delay in transporting them. There is no excuse," he said.

Another important measure to avoid rigging is the decision to count all ballot papers at the polling stations. Last time, they were transported to a central place in the constituency, leading to allegations of ballot box stuffing.

The two main presidential contenders are the ruling party's Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya's founding father Jomo Kenyatta, and former Vice President Mwai Kibaki of the National Rainbow Coalition.

President Daniel Arap Moi is barred from running for re-election by the Kenyan constitution. He has been in office for 24 years.