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Details of Kenya’s Opposition chiefs meeting with John Kerry on 2017 polls

POLITICS
By Moses Nyamori | August 25th 2016
US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with Kenyan Opposition team comprised of CORD principals Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetangula, Amani Coalition’s Musalia Mudavadi and Narc Kenya's Martha Karua.

NAIROBI: The need for a fraud-proof and peaceful polls are some of the issues the Opposition leaders discussed with the US Secretary of State John Kerry when they met on Monday.

CORD co-principals Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang'ula, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua asked the US government to help Kenya put up an electoral infrastructure that cannot be manipulated.

Specifically, the leaders want President Barrack Obama's administration to help the country with electoral Information Communication (ICT) system that is resistant to electoral manipulation.

Ms Karua told The Standard that the meeting discussed a host of issues of mutual interest between the two countries but focused more on electoral reforms as the country prepares for the 2017 General Elections.

"We discussed many issues, key among them the need for support to improve our electoral infrastructure, especially the ICT, which is something they had promised during the Obama visit," she said.

In the 2013 polls, some of the electoral technologies that were deployed by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) failed resulting to a delay in transmission of results.

And in its elections operation plan, IEBC plans to spend Sh4.5 billion out of the Sh45.4 billion elections budget to boost its electoral technologies.

The commission will also introduce back-ups aimed at ensuring effective transmission of provisional results from tallying centres.

Karua said their discussions on electoral reforms was a follow up of what President Barack Obama had promised when he visited the country last year in July.

The Opposition leaders also committed to ensure the polls which are about 10 months away are free of any violence.

"We made our commitment that even as the opposition, we are committed in making the elections violence-free," she added.

On Monday, Kerry said at a press conference that President Uhuru Kenyatta had also assured him that the country would pull out all the stops to ensure it holds elections that would be accepted by both sides of the political divide.

Kerry who announced a Sh2.5 billion support to the country's electoral process said it was upon the political leadership to ensure that the country does not slip back to the chaos that bedevilled the country in 2007.

Karua said that there was already an ongoing bilateral engagement to ensure the country holds a free, fair and credible polls that would be accepted by all sides.

"They US has committed and have already given money. There is already an ongoing bilateral agreement on support towards strengthening the electoral system. Generally, they are in that direction," she added.

Wetang'ula said that the Opposition also had a candid discussion with Kerry on runaway corruption in President Uhuru's administration.

The leaders told Kerry that graft has become "endemic" in the country and asked the US government to follow up on the bilateral agreement Obama and Uhuru signed in the fight against corruption which is eating a third of the country's gross domestic product.

Karua said, "We discussed the issue of endemic corruption in the country. The fight against corruption is something they did in their bilateral agreement."

Just like he did with Uhuru, Kerry also discussed with the Opposition chiefs the security situation in South Sudan, Somalia and combating terrorism.

She said they were in agreement with some of the plans by US to bring back peace in South Sudan.

In his statement in Nairobi, the US top diplomat asked for the deployment of 4,000 security forces to South Sudan to protect civilians which is undergoing a renewed fights.

Also discussed during the closed-door meeting was the issue of extra-judicial killings, in which Kerry told that the US was engaging the government in addressing the issue.

Kerry also committed that the US will continue to offer support whenever it is necessary.

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