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Kenya beefs up security ahead of polls

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Kenya government on Saturday said that it has beefed security ahead of the March 4 general elections, the first exercise since the East African nation's new constitution was approved in August 2010.

Ministry of Internal Security Permanent Security (PS) Mutea Iringo told journalists in Nairobi late Saturday that specific measures have been put in place to ensure that the elections will be the most peaceful one that Kenya has witnessed.

"I wish to take this opportunity to put on notice all criminals bent on disrupting the peace and tranquility during the polling exercise that the full force of the law will be applied without fear or favor," he said in media briefing attended by the Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo.

"The government has mobilized over 99,000 security officers comprising of the police, Kenya Wildlife Service, National Youth Service, Kenya Prisons Service and Kenya Forestry Service to man all the 33,400 polling stations," he said.

The PS said that police officers have also been sensitized on election regulations in order to strengthen their capacity in handling election offenses.

"Police, in collaboration with the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, have been trained and issued with gadgets in order to monitor hate speech and incitement," Iringo said.

He added that a special team of Criminal Investigation Departments (CID) officers has also been dispatched all over the country to expeditiously deal with election offenses.

"All politicians should therefore desist from making inciting utterances that trigger violence," he said. The PS noted that the country has invested heavily over the last five years in peace building and conflict management.

Many Kenyans are eagerly waiting to vote in the historic polls expected to propel Kenya's quest to attain a middle-income status and will be part of the East African nation's 50th birthday successes.

However, despite the eagerness to vote, fear of election violence erupting in the East African nation is growing as the clock ticks towards March 4 elections.

Most of those fearing that they may be affected by violence are people living in presidential candidates' strongholds, where they are perceived to be supporting rivals because of their ethnic background.

"Comprehensive reforms in the judiciary as well as peace initiatives have already been implemented to avoid a repeat of the 2008 post-election chaos," Iringo said.

The official noted that every Kenyan has a right to cast their vote in a peaceful environment.

"Therefore, anyone found distributing leaflets scaring other communities to leave the areas where they are registered as voters, or warning them not to vote will not be tolerated as the offenders, will be arraigned in court," he said.

He added that security around the national tallying center has been tightened to ensure that the election tabulation exercise goes on without any hitches.

He also noted that the government has mapped out hotspots in all the counties countrywide. "Already 22 members of the Coast based separatist group Mombasa Republican Congress have been arrested in the past three weeks for threatening to cause a breach of peace," he said.

He asked Kenyans living in border with Somalia to remain vigilant of the Al-Shabaab militia group, even as the government tackles internal security threats. He also cautioned poachers of wildlife against taking advantage of the election period.

Iringo said that following government intervention, security has been contained in the northern part of Kenya that borders Somalia and Ethiopia, which has been rocked by communal clashes.

"All stakeholders, including the police officers and community elders, have managed to bring about ceasefire among the warring clans," he said.

Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo denied allegations of the existence of armed militias that are currently training in Kenya with a view of disrupting the elections.

Kimaiyo said he has deployed a contingent of heavily armed police officers to the country's major hotspots as precautionary measures to avert chaos following the heated political campaigns in the area.

"The mobilization of 99,000 security officials has begun to all parts of the country and 85 persons have been arrested for committing various election offences," he said.


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