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Kenya's Opposition, Government Chart Way in Electoral Reform


FILE - Members of Kenya's ruling Jubilee coalition carry a banner as they demonstrate in support of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) the electoral body ahead of next year's election in Nairobi, Kenya, June 8, 2016.

FILE - Members of Kenya's ruling Jubilee coalition carry a banner as they demonstrate in support of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) the electoral body ahead of next year's election in Nairobi, Kenya, June 8, 2016.

Kenya’s main opposition is holding talks with the government on reconstituting the country’s electoral commission. Monday’s planned street protests were called off as the talks progress. The protests have led to five fatalities since they began.

A news release sent late Sunday evening by Kenya’s main opposition CORD read in part: “There are signs of a definitive white smoke above political scene in reaching an agreement between CORD and Jubilee in respect of the IEBS issue and the electoral process.”

Protests suspended

The release went on to suspend planned street demonstrations indefinitely. The opposition has been holding demonstrations for the past month calling for an overhaul of the electoral commission, which they say favors the ruling Jubilee coalition.

FILE - Protesters, rallying against what they see as a biased electoral commission, run away from police during clashes in Nairobi, Kenya, May 16, 2016. The country is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in August 2017.

FILE - Protesters, rallying against what they see as a biased electoral commission, run away from police during clashes in Nairobi, Kenya, May 16, 2016. The country is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in August 2017.

Last Friday, eight Kenyan legislators — six from the opposition and two from the ruling coalition — were charged in court over inflammatory remarks made at various public rallies in the country. The legislators were later released on bond.

Kenyan politicians Aisha Jumwa, Florence Mutua, Johnstone Muthama, Junet Mohammed, Timothy Bosire, Ferdinand Waititu, Moses Kuria and Kimani Ngunjiri stand in the dock at the Milimani Law Courts over alleged "hate speech", flagging growing tension in Keny

Kenyan politicians Aisha Jumwa, Florence Mutua, Johnstone Muthama, Junet Mohammed, Timothy Bosire, Ferdinand Waititu, Moses Kuria and Kimani Ngunjiri stand in the dock at the Milimani Law Courts over alleged "hate speech", flagging growing tension in Keny

In 2007, post-election violence saw more than 1,100 people killed and 600,000 displaced in Kenya.

Peter Alengo from the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) pointed out that the judiciary can enforce the rule of law in the country as a deterrent.

“If the court remains firm and tries these cases to their logical end , you know, then we will see a sense in which some degree of fear will reign in on hate mongers and ethnic war mongers,” he said.

Committee on reforms

The opposition and ruling coalition have formed a 14-member select committee to chart the way forward on the issues, including electoral reform. Alengo notes, however, that a more inclusive process would ensure a successful outcome.

“The dialogue should be extended outside the political protagonists so that all stakeholders that are able to make a contribution in this respect are also able to come to the dialogue table because I think a lot of Kenyans also have their views on this and probably that will be the direction the select committee will take and if they do take that then it will be a plus and a win-win situation for Kenyans,” he said.

Kenya is scheduled to hold general elections in August 2017.

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