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Commission Chairman Warns of Growing Tension Ahead of Kenya Vote

  • Peter Clottey

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (C) and Kenyan PM Raila Odinga (R) greeting the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo (L), ahead of their meeting in Nairobi, 05 Nov 2009 (Kenyan Presidential press service office)

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (C) and Kenyan PM Raila Odinga (R) greeting the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo (L), ahead of their meeting in Nairobi, 05 Nov 2009 (Kenyan Presidential press service office)

The chairman of Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has expressed concern that growing tension in some parts of the country could undermine the upcoming referendum.

Professor Mzalendo Kibunja said his group has documentary evidence of a threat of violence as campaigns continue ahead of the upcoming referendum scheduled for 4th August.

“We are worried because we introduced (the) SMS (text) number…where people can report any incidents that are likely to imperil peace in this country. But, we are getting some SMS’s where we are seeing some very hot spots particularly in the Rift Valley, and we are concerned about it,” he said.

Professor Kibunja also said that there is a need for residents in the Rift Valley to understand that Kenya must move together as one nation to ensure a peaceful referendum.

The referendum will enable Kenyans to decide whether to accept or reject the newly proposed constitution.

Recent polls show that a majority of Kenyans are in favor of the new constitution despite strong opposition from former President Daniel Arap Moi, as well as some cabinet ministers in the current coalition government.

Professor Kibunja partly attributes the growing tension to what he described as unguarded remarks by public figures.

“I think the problem is the leaders. (And) that is why, as a commission, we are very, very firm on the people who are inciting Kenyans on the basis of ethnicity. And also, the other problem is the historical injustices. That is why, as the commissioners of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, we are asking that the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission must be able to overcome their problems and address these things,” Kibunja said.

The NCIC announced that communities with growing tensions include Kericho, Elmore, Nakuru, Kuresoi, Kuria, Mount Elgon, Kapenguria, Chepareria, Narok, and Turbo.

But, last week, Kenya’s local media reported that the coalition government will institute a three-stage security plan in the Rift Valley that includes gathering intelligence and sending reinforcements to select police stations. The administration also expects to deploy 15,000 additional officers to provide adequate security ahead of the referendum.

Professor Kibunja said that all stakeholders should work closely together to resolve all the issues that led to the 2007-post election violence ahead of the vote.

“All the commissioners of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission have decided that, for the next 11 days or so, we are going to (go and) concentrate and make sure that all the commissioners at that part of Kenya (hot spots) where there is a problem with cohesion and integration…so they realize that Kenya must move ahead as one country after the referendum,” Kibunja said.

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