/ 21 December 2007

EU condemns pre-poll violence in Kenya

The European Union’s chief election observer on Friday condemned violence that has marred the lead-up to Kenya’s elections, left at least 70 people dead since July and risks disenfranchising 20 000 people.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff was visiting the epicentre of the tribal clashes that have been ongoing for months but which have flared up ahead of the December 27 polls, a common occurrence before elections in the East African nation.

”We have noted with concern the level of violence that has taken place during the electoral process, particularly in Kuresoi and Mount Elgon,” he said.

Hundreds of people have been killed in ethnic violence in western Mount Elgon and Kuresoi regions, with politicians blamed for stoking tensions to win votes.

”The EU observer mission deplores violence. It has no place at all in a genuine democratic election,” said Lambsdorff, a member of the European Parliament from Germany.

Kenyans are set to vote in the country’s closest elections yet, with observers warning that the tight race could lead to violence after the polls.

”The situation has simmered on far too long. It is an example of how not addressing ethnically and politically motivated violence can lead to tragedy … These people are being denied their democratic right to vote,” Lambsdorff said, meeting people displaced by violence.

East Africa’s largest economy is seen by foreign donors as a beacon of stability in a troubled region, but tribal clashes have been known to mar elections. The deaths ahead of these polls are said to be higher than the last elections in 2002.

The United States embassy in Nairobi, meanwhile, said it was concerned about violence against female candidates, noting it had heard ”horror stories of intimidation and attacks”.

President Mwai Kibaki (76) is up against Raila Odinga (62, who has been leading in most opinion polls, but analysts say the elections are anyone’s to win with less than a week ahead of the vote. — Sapa-dpa