Commission sets date for Kenyan presidential race | News | DW | 17.03.2012
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Commission sets date for Kenyan presidential race

Kenya's electoral commission says it has seized the initiative and set 4 March next year as the date for a presidential election - the first since 2007 when post-poll violence claimed 1,220 lives.

The chairman of Kenya's electoral commission, Ahmed Issack Hassan said his team has stipulated the date because of the reticence of Prime Minister Railia Odinga and incumbent President Mwai Kibaki to dissolve Kenya's fractious coalition government.

Nominally, said Hassan, the coalition's term would expire mid-January 2013, but if Odinga and Kibaki agreed to dissolve the coalition earlier, then the presidential election would be brought forward. It had become apparent during commission talks with the pair that they disagreed on when polls should be held, Hassan added.

Last January, a high court had ruled that Kenya's next presidential elections be held within 60 days of the current parliament's expiry date.

Annan mediated settlement

In the aftermath of Kenya's last presidential election in December 2007, political riots escalated into ethnic killings. Odinga, then opposition chief, accused Kibaki of having rigged his re-election. Under attack, members of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe launched reprisals. The bloodshed only ended in March 2008 when Odinga agreed to become premier in the coalition under the mediation of former UN chief Kofi Annan.

While Kibaki is barred from contesting the next poll, Odinga is expected to do so alongside his former ally William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has accused ex-finance minister Kenyatta and three others, including Ruto, of directing the 2008 violence. All four denied the charges. Early in March, The Hague-based ICC rejected their appeals to have charges dropped and signaled that the trial chamber would be set up by May.

In Kenya fears of a resurgence in political violence faded when a referendum on a new constitution passed without incident in 2010, but other tensions remain.

Tensions linked to Somalia

Last weekend, attackers threw hand grenades at a busy Nairobi bus terminal, killing nine people and injuring 40 other people.

Islamist al Shabab rebels from neighboring Somalia denied responsibility for that attack. Last year Kenya sent troops into southern Somalia to join an African Union force sent under UN mandate to fight the insurgents. The AU force was initially established to protect Somalia's weak Western-backed government based in Mogadishu.

ipj/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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