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EU, US Criticize Kenyan Pre-Election Violence

The European Commission and the United States are condemning the political violence that has been reported in Kenya in the run-up to the December 27 presidential and legislative elections. President Mwai Kibaki is trailing challenger Raila Odinga in opinion polls, but many observers say the race is too close to call. Derek Kilner reports for VOA from Nairobi.

The head of the European Union's election observation team in Kenya, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, condemned recent episodes of election-fueled tribal violence on a visit to some of the affected areas.

Clashes over land have displaced tens of thousands of people this year, particularly near Kuresoi and Mt. Elgon in Kenya's west.

A recently released report by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights says at least 70 people have been killed in election-related violence since July. The report says responsibility for the attacks can be hard to determine.

Anthony Kuria, Principal Human Rights Officer with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, acknowledges election violence is a problem.

"With the history of violence in this country how it has been used is to disenfranchise certain communities which are perceived as not being friendly to whichever party is fostering the violence, but right now it is a very, very confused situation," he said.

Kenya's electoral commission has called in several parliamentary candidates, including the assistant minister for east African affairs, for questioning about electoral violence.

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger also called for peaceful elections on Friday, with special emphasis on the threat of violence to women.

"We've been concerned about violence against women candidates," he said. "They have been particular targets and victims of horrendous unspeakable violence. We believe that those women candidates need extra protection given that they are particular targets of violence."

Ranneberger also announced that close to 200 U.S. Embassy employees will be serving as election observers. They will join other observer teams from the European Commission, the East African Community, the Commonwealth and the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute.