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Kenyan PM accuses civil service head of ‘rigging’ vote

NAIROBI (AFP) – Kenya’s prime minister, a frontrunner in the March 4 presidential poll, accused Thursday the head of the civil service of attempting to manipulate the vote to his rivals’ advantage.

Raila Odinga accused Francis Kimemia, who holds the politically neutral post running the daily affairs of government, has been “approaching candidates and offering them money to ditch CORD,” Odinga said, referring to his Coalition for Reform and Democracy party.

Kenya is gearing up for presidential, gubernatorial, senatorial elections on March 4, the first since bloody post-poll violence five years ago in which more than 1,100 people died after contested results.

“This is a senior government official who should not be involving himself in such issues,” Odinga told reporters, claiming that he had “become an activist of a political party and is now intimidating public officers.”

“We are not scared or panicking, but we are avoiding a repeat of having an election rigged,” Odinga added, saying he had written to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) with “details of the rigging claims including senior persons involved”.

Kimemia responded in a statement saying that police would investigate “allegations of involvement of senior government officers in partisan politics”, but did not specifically respond to the allegations against himself.

Kimemia was appointed in 2012 by President Mwai Kibaki after his predecessor Francis Muthaura stepped down following indictment by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

The accusations come a day after Kenya’s Chief Justice Willy Mutunga accused Kimemia of trying to block him from leaving the country on a trip, saying it was part of “a pattern of emerging harassment” against him.

Mutunga, Kenya’s top judge and head of the Supreme Court, said that the country must not “be held hostage by a cabal of retrogrades” and appealed for peaceful election to “silence these dark forces of retrogression.”

He also said he had received a “poison-pen letter” — also sent to several foreign embassies — from a group calling themselves the Mungiki Veterans Group and Kenya Sovereignty Defence Squad.

The veracity of the letter could not be confirmed.

The outlawed Mungiki are an ethnic Kikuyu criminal gang notorious for beheading and skinning its victims, and who played a key role in violence after the last elections.

Odinga’s main rival for the presidency is Uhuru Kenyatta, who also faces ICC trial for crimes against humanity including murder, rape, persecution, deportation and other inhumane acts. He denies the charges.

The ICC accuses him of links to the Mungiki in the last elections.


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