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Dispute Flares Over Kenya Election Date


A general view shows members of parliament on March 06, 2008 at the parliament in Nairobi during the opening of the second session of 10th parliament

A general view shows members of parliament on March 06, 2008 at the parliament in Nairobi during the opening of the second session of 10th parliament

Some members of Kenya's national assembly oppose a recent announcement that general elections will be held in August of next year, as stipulated in the country's new constitution. They argue that elections should not be conducted before they finish their term in December of next year, also outlined in the constitution.

According to Section 101 of Kenya's new constitution, general elections are to take place on the second Tuesday of August every five years.

Kenya's last elections were held in December 2007. It was widely expected that the upcoming elections would be held in December of next year.

Member of Parliament Nicholas Gumbo says that, according to Section 262 of the new constitution, the August election date only kicks in after the current term ends in December 2012.

"Part 10 of the Transitional and Consequential Provisions talks of the National Assembly," Gumbo said. "It says very clearly that the national assembly existing immediately before the effective date shall continue as the National Assembly for the purposes of this constitution for its unexpired term."

Charles Nyachae, chairman of the Commission for Implementation of the Constitution, announced Thursday that general elections will be held on August 14, 2012, as stipulated by the constitution.

He rejected the argument that the general election should be conducted in December.

"There is nothing here that suggests that that will not be what will apply in the first general election under the constitution. Any suggestion of a date other than the one that is provided for in the constitution would itself have to be by reference to the constitution," Nyachae said.

Elections are an emotive issue in Kenya. Following the disputed December, 2007 polls was a nationwide outbreak of violence that killed more than 1,000 people and caused millions of dollars of damage.

Six suspects, three of whom are Members of Parliament, are currently being summoned to the International Criminal Court for their alleged planning of the post-election violence.

The violence ended with the formation of a coalition government that eventually put together a new constitution, approved through a referendum in August of last year.

George Wainaina chairman of the National Council of NGOs, says he agrees that the constitution calls for elections to be held next August, and that he thinks parliamentarians arguing for the December date are doing so for selfish reasons.

"We have suffered many years from impunity, where people in power decide to do one thing for their good. So I think it is high time Kenyans should do the right thing not because it has come from X or Y but because it is the right thing, and that way we'll be able to go by the rules and be able to avoid impunity, which has been the biggest drawback in our development," Wainaina said.

But Member of Parliament Gumbo says it is a matter of following what the constitution says.

"I mean, this is the constitutional provision, and the transitional clauses are part of this constitution," Gumbo said. "You can't say that you've read and applied the constitution and you ignore the transitional provision."

Wainaina predicts the disputed dates will cause a lot debate amongst Kenyans as well as politicians.

Already, some government members are being criticized for politicking ahead of next year's elections.




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