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13:33, 27 June 2017 Tuesday
18:39, 20 April 2017 Thursday

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Kenya leader warns against violence as poll fever hits
Kenya leader warns against violence as poll fever hits

Kenya is already gripped by election fever and primaries to choose candidates for local government and parliament have seen violence and dramatic last-minute floor-crossings.

World Bulletin / News Desk

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta warned Thursday against violence as election season gets into full swing, with chaotic party primaries already leading to bloody scuffles.

East Africa's largest economy holds a general election on August 8, a decade after disputed poll results fuelled violence that left more than 1,100 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. 

"As a party, we will not tolerate violence. As president, I will also not tolerate violence and anybody who engages in acts of violence will be dealt with in accordance with the law, irrespective of who they are," Kenyatta told a press conference in Nairobi.

Kenyatta, 55, is seeking a second term in office with his Jubilee Party and will again run alongside his deputy William Ruto.

In Kenya, politics is hard-fought and victory decided in large part along ethnic lines, with political alliances mostly based on who can lure which votes from the "Big Five" -- the main ethnic groups who can influence the outcome of the vote.

The two men's alliance in 2013 brought together two ethnic groups who had clashed violently in 2007, Kenyatta's majority Kikuyu tribe and Ruto's Kalenjin.

They also managed to win despite crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over their role in the 2007 violence which were later dropped.

 'Big announcement'  

In a bid to unseat the powerful team, five opposition heavyweights have united in a coalition called NASA but have spent months agonising over the winning combination of flag-bearers that will draw in the most votes from key tribes.

At a large rally on Thursday opposition party leader Moses Wetangula said the "big announcement" would be made next Thursday, just over 100 days from voting -- a fact the ruling party has used to paint the opposition as disorganised and rudderless.

All eyes will be on the position taken by veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, 72, who likely faces his last shot at the presidency after losing three past elections. In both 2007 and 2013 he blamed his loss on vote rigging.

About 19 million voters have been registered to take part in the election, pending a final audit to remove dead voters or double listings, of a population estimated by the World Bank at 46 million.

Albino lawmaker Isaac Mwaura claimed on Facebook he had been shot in the ear and his car sprayed with bullets in an "assassination attempt" while out campaigning for Jubilee, just days after defecting from Odinga's ODM party, the main opposition group. 

Dozens have been injured in clashes over nominations, including at ODM headquarters in Nairobi earlier this month when youths supporting one nominee for senator drew guns claiming her rival had already secured the party ticket.

On Wednesday, local media reported fistfights between rival supporters of ruling party candidates which left at least nine injured while one aspirant was hospitalised with neck injuries.

It appears the scourge of fake news has also taken hold.

A spate of kidnappings of politicians -- who disappear and then resurface in mysterious circumstances days later, claiming to have been drugged and held hostage -- has stumped police and raised suspicions that they are being faked to draw attention.

"The challenge is that it is difficult to verify the claims. It is not right for politicians to cause anguish to people by playing pranksters in the name of public sympathy to win votes," read an editorial in the Daily Nation newspaper Thursday.


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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.