from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – A KENYAN official has called on government to empower election management bodies and the country’s cohesion commission with arresting and prosecutorial powers.
This is anticipated to curb poll malpractices, including hate speech.
Simon Nabukwesi, Permanent Secretary in the State Department for University Education and Research, also called on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as well as National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) to create a name and shame accountability database of wayward politicians for Kenyans to judge them objectively.
He said this would also show the youth that there were consequences to hate speech and other election malpractices.
“If this was instituted, then perhaps politicians and all of us would take seriously our obligations in contributing to peace and cohesion,” Nabukwesi said.
He was speaking at the University of Nairobi where the University and College Students Peace Association of Kenya (UCSPAK) launched the “47 Days of Peace Campaign” last Friday.
The event brought together election stakeholders, including the IEBC, NCIC, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Mkenya Daima Initiative as well as the Kenya University Dean of Student Association (KUDSA).
Through the campaign, students from 75 universities and colleges launched the nationwide peace sensitisation campaign targeting their fellow youth ahead of the August 9 elections.
Allan Chacha, UCSPAK Founder and Executive Director, said the peace campaign would seek to build solidarity among young people on election matters with a view to encouraging youth to come out and vote.
He welcomed the multi-stakeholder support.
“We now take the challenge to spread the message of leadership, peace and responsible electoral participation to our fellow students and Kenyan youth across the country,” Chacha said.
Dr Skitter Ocharo, Chief Executive Officer of the NCIC, said creatively look for ways to prevent violence and consolidate peace, hence the commission incorporated them.
“Society requires ropes around the wrestling ring that is the political arena, to confine the shenanigans to where it belongs,” Ocharo stated.
“The national peace infrastructure is those ropes. I want to urge the youths to stop being used and or misused by the political class to engage in activities that could only result in violence and polarisation of the nation.”
Ocharo encouraged the youth is to reject misinformation, disinformation, fake news and hate speech.
Stephen Jackson, UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, said if excluded, young people could feel frustrated and become susceptible to manipulation.
“Realising that you have skin in the game is what ensures your thirst for change remains positive rather than destructive. This is what we must work on together,” he said.
The East African country has a history of disputed polls, including the last in 2017, which the courts overturned after evidence of vote rigging.
At the end of 2007, the most violent poll left an estimated 1 500 people dead and 600 000 displaced after the opposition protested against alleged electoral manipulation.
Mwai Kibaki (now late) was announced the winner ahead of Raila Odinga, who will contest again this year.
Current Vice President, William Ruto, is the other main contender, although the outgoing head of state, Uhuru Kenyatta, has endorsed Odinga.
– CAJ News