Kenya Calls Prime Minister’s Vote-Rigging Allegations DangerousSarah McGregor
Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga accused three top officials of trying to rig the March 4 national elections, an allegation the government called “irresponsible and dangerous.”
The campaign secretariat for Odinga, the prime minister, accused the head of the public service, the director-general of the National Security Intelligence Service and the armed forces chief of “partisan activities,” according a Feb. 16 statement.
“There is no rigging that the government is involved in,” spokesman Muthui Kariuki said today in a phone interview. “They are trying to distract the country from their own imminent losses and they should not drag the Cabinet into it.”
Kenya is holding the first national elections since ethnic and political clashes erupted after a disputed vote in 2007. The violence started after the opposition led by Odinga said he had been robbed of victory by fraud. The fighting ended after President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu by tribe, agreed to share power with Odinga, a Luo.
Odinga has a narrow lead over Uhuru Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister, in the race to replace Kibaki, according to at least two opinion polls. Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto in the Jubilee coalition are facing International Criminal Court charges for directing clashes in 2008 in trials set to start in April. Both have said they are innocent.
Francis Kimemia, head of the public service, instructed lower level government officials and six permanent secretaries to canvass voters “for a presidential candidate while suppressing voter turnout against another candidate,” Odinga campaign manager Eliud Owalo said.
Vote-influencing has been discussed at several “strategy meetings” attended by intelligence head Michael Gichangi and Chief of Defence Forces Julius Karangi, Owalo said. There is evidence of the meetings, he said without elaborating.
Kenya’s government is implementing a plan to hold free and fair elections in a safe environment, Kariuki said.
“We have biometric voting this time, and that’s not easy to rig,” he said. “We have police officers in every corner of the country. I can assure you that the government is on top of things.”
The charges are “baseless,” Kenyatta spokesman Munyori Buku said in an e-mailed statement.