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Watchdog Says Graft Could Cause More Election Violence in Kenya

A new public-opinion survey by a Kenyan anti-corruption organization warnrd the country could face another round of violence at its next elections, if the government does not increase its efforts to fight graft.

According to the survey by the Kenyan branch of the global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, most respondents believe the country's next elections, currently set for 2012, will again be marred by violence if corruption concerns are not addressed.

Program Officer Mwangi Kibathi presented the findings in Nairboi.

"We had a massive 64 percent who think it is a real possibility, they have genuine fear, and it is only 36 percent who think that whether corruption is tackled or not, there will be no post-election violence," he said.

Two-thirds of respondents said they feared that violence would be worse than in 2008, when a disputed election result set of political and ethnic clashes that killed more than 1,300 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

Transparency International Kenya Director Job Ogonda said corruption decreases the public's confidence in the justice system, leading people to turn to armed militias for protection and to pursue justice.

More than three-quarters of respondents thought the government lacked the political will to fight corruption. It has faced a raft of corruption scandals in recent months, including in the agriculture and energy ministries. An effort in parliament to force the agriculture minister to step down was soundly rebuffed.

According to the survey, fewer than one third of the respondents said they would re-elect their member of parliament if elections were held today. Roughly half of the respondents said they were in favor of holding new elections.

But Ogonda said the problem of corruption extends beyond the legislature.

"Most of the institutions of governance have been captured by corrupt, narrow vested interests. Therefore when you lay blame, it has to be across the board. It begins with the executive, it extends into parliament, it extends into our oversight institutions, such as the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission, and it extends to the justice delivery system that includes the police and our judiciary," he said.

The telephone survey of 1,000 people focused on Kenya's five major cities, and the organization cautioned that it should not be taken as representative of public opinion throughout the country. But the results are in line with another recent survey, by the polling group Steadman, which also found high levels of dissatisfaction with the government, including 70 percent of respondents saying that Kenya's coalition government had not achieved anything since it began its term a year ago.

Kenya ranks 147th out of 190 countries on Transparency International's latest global ranking.