January 23rd 2018

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Election law fallout leaves Kenya on brink, new year to open with protests

Jubilee MPs adopted a proposal for manual transmission of results which the opposition opposed. Mr Odinga also stood by his initial announcement that the opposition would organise streets protests beginning January 4 to protest Thursday's approval of the contentious amendments.

By Jack Otwalanewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comFriday, 23 Dec 2016 15:26 EAT

CORD supporters demonstrating against IEBC commissioners early this year. (Photo: Allan Muturi/Kenya Free Press).

Tension is building up in the country as the stand-off between ruling Jubilee Party and opposition CORD widens following the passage of controversial amendments to electoral laws that had been agreed by the two sides as a compromise for the 2017 elections. The amendments which were pushed by the government side will see the Electoral Commission prepare for a manual voter registration and manual voting method in the event the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) and electronic voting system fails.

The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) leader Raila Odinga told Citizen TV last night that there "would be no elections in 2017 as opposition won’t participate." Mr Odinga told Citizen TV’s Hussein Mohammed that the elections would be rigged and there was no point in CORD taking part in them. When asked whether he had evidence, he said, “It’s not a matter of evidence, just look at the body language of Jubilee”.

Jubilee MPs adopted a proposal for manual transmission of results which the opposition opposed. Mr Odinga also stood by his initial announcement that the opposition would organise streets protests beginning January 4 to protest Thursday's approval of the contentious amendments.

Mr Odinga termed the amendments "the height of impunity" and accused the government of hiding behind the amendments in its plan to rig the 2017 poll. CORD co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka said the amendments will not deter the opposition in its clamour for a free, fair and credible election.

But as the country braces for yet another political turmoil, the question was it necessary to let it reach where it has reached? Catholic bishops’ call on President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday afternoon not to sign into law the changes that were bulldozed by Jubilee MPs to the law that will govern the 2017 elections appeared to have come too late.

Even though the bishops have opened door for a dialogue in urging the President to give it a chance, some see their call as coming too late, the country having been on the verge of chaos from Tuesday when Parliament witnessed chaotic scenes with Jubilee and Opposition rising against each other.

The calls by the church came late as both the ruling and opposition coalitions had already taken hardline positions regarding changes to the election law. CORD has said the proposed changes should be discussed by the 14-member joint committee that came up with the law in the first place. The 14-member team was led by Senators Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and James Orengo (Siaya).

Western diplomats led by American ambassador Robert Godec, British High Commissioner Nic Hailey and mainstream religious pushed CORD to stopping demonstrations demanding the removal of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commissioners. But President Kenyatta during Jamhuri Day celebrations in what appeared like scaring away the envoys warned against foreign countries interfering with the impending elections.

Barely a week after President Kenyatta claimed that external powers are seeking to influence the 2017 polls, the government suspended a civic education program worth Sh2 billion run by the USAID. The American NGO International Foundation for Electoral System was implementing a program dubbed the "Kenya Electoral Assistance program, KEAP 2017".

Ten envoys from Donor countries however refuted claims that they were financing electoral programmes to influence the outcome of next year's General Election in Kenya. The envoys who signed the statement include Robert F. Godec (United States), Mette Knudsen (Denmark), Stefano Dejak (European Union Delegation to Kenya), Frans Makken (the Netherlands), Tarja Fernández (Finland), John Murton (Chargé d’Affaires a.i., UK), Victor Conrad Rønneberg (Norway) and Johan Borgstam (Sweden).

Others are John Feakes (High Commissioner, Australia), Jutta Frasch (Germany) and Sara Hradecky (High Commissioner, Canada).

Jack is a business and society writer at the Kenya Free Press

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