The chairman of Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) said a two-day nationwide discussion on ensuring next year’s elections are free, fair and transparent begins Monday.
Mzalendo Kibunja said there is also a need to bolster security ahead of the vote following recent attacks often blamed on the Somali-based Islamist group al-Shabab.
"One of the things that is going to happen to those forums today and tomorrow is where members of each of the counties will come together and say these are the requirements to make sure there is [a] free and fair and peaceful general election," continued Mzalendo.
“Those resolutions will then come to the national conference on [the] 30th and 31st in [the capital] Nairobi and from there we would now develop a national strategy to make sure that we have free, fair and peaceful general election," he said.
Mzalendo’s comments follow concerns that voters who gather at polling stations could be targeted by al-Shabab.
He said security concerns expressed by Kenyans are justified, but adds that the government would take steps to address them in the run-up to the vote.
“There is a very clear plan now to hire more policemen before we go to general elections, about 7000 of them, in addition to the 7000 that have just graduated, and in addition to the ones that are already serving,” said Mzalendo.
“As a country, we are determined to make sure that we don’t go to the direction we went in 2008," he said. "And, if you read today’s newspaper, you will see a very clear statement from the president where he says that he wants to leave a legacy of peace as we go to elections next year.”
The country was engulfed in post-election violence following December 2007 elections. The unrest left at least 1,300 dead and displaced more than 300,000 others. Next year’s presidential, legislative and local level polls will be Kenya’s first since then.
Mzalendo said his organization, as well as other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has begun an education campaign to sensitize Kenyans about ensuring a peaceful vote next year.
“That is being done by both government and civil society to make sure that we don’t go that direction [of violence]. For us, as a commission, we have been effective reining in people who have been inciting each other on the basis of ethnicity, race and religion,” said Mzalendo.
“In the next few coming days," he added, "you will see a number of ministers brought to court, being charged on incitement. That tells you we are following the law, but we are also doing civic education.”
The NCIC was established to advise the government and to facilitate and promote equality of opportunity, good relations, harmony and peaceful co-existence between persons of different ethnic and racial communities in the country.