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Carter Center Hopeful of Peaceful Kenya Elections

John Stremlau is the vice president for peace programs at the U.S.-based Carter Center. (Gwenn Dubourthoumieu/TCC)
The U.S.-based Carter Center election monitoring group says it is optimistic Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will conduct a peaceful vote Monday.

John Stremlau, the vice president for peace programs at the U.S.-based Carter Center, says the IEBC has been responsive to the pressures to deliver peaceful and credible elections.

He noted concerns of rising tension expressed by some Kenyans ahead of the election.

“The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has administered the process so far in a competent manner,” said Stremlau. “There have been some short comings, but at the moment we are hopeful because we all like to see a peaceful election in Kenya.”

The IEBC invited the Carter Center’s election observers to monitor the March 4 vote.

Stremlau says there is strong local and international interest in how Kenya conducts its elections.

“We try to work with other observer groups compare notes; we are independent, but if we can come to a kind of consensus around the process that needs to be followed in light of what has been agreed to candidates in advance of the contest, then if there are disturbances or challenges… there are mechanisms in place for resolving these differences. And our plea to everyone is stick to the process and do it peacefully,” said Stremlau.

Last month, the Carter Center observer group sent 14 election observers from 11 different countries to Kenya to monitor the IEBC’s preparations in the run up to the vote.

In its preliminary report, the observers expressed concern about what they called developments that could undermine the credibility of the vote.

“Among these are the apparent exclusion of a number of youth, women, internally displaced persons, and pastoralists from the voter register; shortcomings in voter education that have led many Kenyans to believe incorrectly that they will be using electronic voting machines, and the complex scale of managing polling, counting, and transmission of results for six ballot papers for different elected offices,” the report said.

Some Kenyans, including Prime Minister Raila Odinga, have expressed concerns about possible vote rigging – a concern the IEBC says is unfounded.

Some Kenyans attribute the 2007-2008 post-election violence to disputes over vote totals. The violence left an estimated 1,133 people dead and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Some analysts say next week’s vote will be hotly contested because President Mwai Kibaki is set to retire.

“Our expectations are that the Kenyan people will see [it is] in their interest, certainly in Africa and the world’s interest, to have this jewel of a country get on with the business of developing,” said Stremlau.

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