The president of the East Africa Law Society has called on Kenya’s security agencies to step up efforts to improve security before the nation’s elections on Monday.
James Mwamu says the security agencies would have to be proactive and vigilant to prevent a repeat of the 2007-2008 post-election violence.
“We are asking the security agents to ensure that the citizens of Kenya are properly protected so that they would then be able to exercise their rights to vote in a free and fair election,” said Mwamu. “They must be proactive in gathering intelligence.”
“The commissioner of police must make sure that the people who are trying to cause this tension, causing insecurity, are arrested and charged and also that the citizens are given proper security throughout the country,” he added.
Mwamu’s comments follow recent reports that some Kenyans have been leaving their homes after threatening leaflets were distributed in their area. Police have since launched an investigation after promising improved security in the run up to the vote.
Mwamu says the security agencies also should prevent cross-border attacks often blamed on a Somali-based Islamic insurgent group, al-Shabab.
He warned that reports of growing insecurity could undermine the integrity of the election.
“Our concern is that insecurity is likely to interfere with the voting process in the sense that at the end of the day, when people run away and they don’t vote, the legitimacy of the people who are going to be elected will be brought into question,” said Mwamu.
He also called on the police not to use excessive force in carrying out their duties as part of an effort to improve security during the election.
Monday’s vote is Kenya’s first election after a new constitution was promulgated following demands by Kenyans and the international community for institutional reforms.
The presidential candidates have unanimously pledged their commitment toward ensuring a peaceful vote. Mwamu hailed the pledge, but added that more needs to be done to avoid violence.
“Sometimes you hear politicians saying that they are preaching peace, but behind the curtains, sometimes they encourage their supporters to go and fight when they are not in the public limelight,” said Mwamu.