Kenya rights groups: Muslims denied voter cards

Kenyan officials issuing voter cards have systematically discriminated against Muslims.

Kenya rights groups: Muslims denied voter cards
Kenyan officials issuing voter cards have systematically discriminated against Muslims, denying many the chance to cast ballots in close-run presidential and parliamentary polls this week, a rights group said on Sunday.

The government-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) investigated numerous allegations that members of 10 million-strong Muslim population were treated unfairly when they applied for registration cards.

"The process of vetting Kenyan-Somalis, Nubians and Kenyan Arabs ... is discriminatory and violates the principle of equal treatment," it said in its report.

Members of these communities were often subjected to unusually lengthy checks by the authorities, it said.

Officials often demanded to see alternative proofs of citizenship, like land titles or grandparents' IDs, even though this was not required by law, the commission said.

"For a long time Muslims have been complaining about marginalisation. ... This report confirms the allegations ... the cries about victimisation are actually true," commissioner Hassan Omar Hassan told journalists.

Mistreatment of Muslims had happened in Kenya for decades, the commission said, but had worsened since 2001 under the U.S. "war on terror" -- and it said officials sometimes used suspicions of terrorism to hold up the registration process.

Rigging claims

Opposition challenger Raila Odinga has been at the forefront of those accusing President Mwai Kibaki's government of plotting to steal victory at the ballot box on Thursday.

In his latest allegation, Odinga said some 20,000 police had been deployed in his Nairobi constituency to intimidate voters and rig the election in favour of his rival.

The government denied it, saying extra police were deploying to all districts -- and that Odinga was not being singled out.

Odinga has maintained a narrow lead in opinion polls over Kibaki, with less than a week to go before what are shaping up to be the closest polls yet in east Africa's biggest economy.

Some 14 million of Kenya's 36 million people will be eligible to vote, and campaigning officially ends on Monday.

Despite their widely different personalities and leadership styles -- Kibaki is seen as reserved while Odinga is outspoken -- the pair differ little on policy.

Both are vowing to boost Kenya's economic growth, create jobs, tackle poverty and provide free secondary education.

Civil society activists have accused both Kibaki's Party of National Unity and Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement of bribing voters and other electoral frauds, which both deny.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Aralık 2007, 16:59