Protesters Demand Justice in Killing of Kenyan Election Official

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NAIROBI � Several dozen protesters marched to the electoral commission offices Tuesday in central Nairobi, demanding justice for election official Chris Msando.

Msando was found dead Monday after going missing Friday. According to the head of Kenya’s electoral commission, Msando was tortured before he was killed.

Anti-corruption campaigner John Githongo says Msando’s killing was meant to derail the electoral process.

“The timing of his torture and murder serves to undermine Kenya’s elections management body at this most crucial time in the work of the IEBC [Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission],” Githongo said.

The nationwide vote is one week away, and the organization of the elections has been a source of tension during the past year. Msando was to oversee the use of biometric voter technology.

Kenya Human Rights Commission Executive Director George Kegoro helped organize the march.

“Even as the investigation gets on its way, we remind the state of its duty to take whatever necessary measures it finds possible to secure the safety of IEBC commissioners and all its staff,” Kegoro said. “An intimidated and fearful staff cannot fully deliver its mandate or respect its oath to act without fear or favor in carrying out their important responsibilities [as] entrusted by the citizens of Kenya.”

Political parties on both sides have condemned Msando’s killing.

The ruling Jubilee coalition issued a statement urging police to investigate, while one of the leaders of the main opposition alliance, Musalia Mudavadi, spoke to reporters.

“Chris [Msando], on television last week, assured Kenyans that they need not worry about the Kenya Integrated Electronic [Elections] Management System [KIEMS], as he was sure it would work,” Mudavadi said. “That no effort was made to camouflage this killing as an accident shows the determination of the killers to send a chilling message that they will stop at nothing to ensure the outcome that they desire.”

Electoral commission chairman Wafula Chebukati met with protesters and said the commission is determined to do its job.

“We are mourning with the family, we are mourning with the IEBC family, but this country is bigger than all of us [and] we have a mandate to deliver to the Kenyan people,” Chebukati said.

Kenya’s inspector general of police called Msando’s killing “a crime of grave proportions” and said a team has been assembled to follow what he called “several crucial leads” to bring the murderers to justice. The United States and Britain have offered to assist Kenya in the investigation.

Source: Voice of America

Rwandans to vote in presidential elections

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More than 6.8 million Rwandans will on Friday head to the polls to elect a new president.

They will choose between the incumbent President Paul Kagame of the ruling party Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent candidate.

About 6.8 million people will participate in this year’s presidential elections, up from 5.7 million who participated in the 2010 presidential elections, according to the National Electoral Commission of Rwanda.

This year’s presidential elections will be the third since the end of the ex-genocidal regime in 1994.

President Kagame gained landslide victories in the last two presidential elections held in 2003 and 2010 by winning 95 percent and 93 percent of the total votes, respectively.

The African Union (AU) has announced that it would deploy an AU election observation mission (AUEOM) to observe the elections.

Headed by Cassam Uteem, former President of Mauritius, the mission comprises of 40 observers drawn from various African countries and AU institutions. The mission will remain in the country until the announcement of final results.

Shortly after the election day, the mission will issue a preliminary statement of its findings at a press conference in Kigali, according to an AU statement.

A final report, including recommendations for improvement of future electoral processes in Rwanda, will be presented at a later stage, after the completion of the entire electoral process, said the statement from the pan-African bloc.

Elections in Kenya

Meanwhile, the AU has also deployed the AUEOM to Kenya to observe the general elections scheduled for 8 August 2017.

The AUEOM is led by South African former president Thabo Mbeki and comprises of 90 Short Term Observers (STOs) and 14 Long Term Observers (LTOs) drawn from the Pan-African Parliament, African Ambassadors to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Election Management Bodies (EMBs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Think Tanks and the Academia from various African countries.

The LTOs are deployed from 3 July � 26 August 2017, while the STOs are deployed from 28 July � 14 August 2017.

The AU said as part of its activities, the AUEOM will meet with various stakeholders in Kenya, including political parties and CSOs. The observers will be deployed throughout the country to observe the pre-election, election day and post-election activities.

Observations and recommendations of the AUEOM will be based on the credibility, transparency, fairness and the effective organization of the elections, the AU said on Tuesday.

After the elections, the AUEOM will release its preliminary statement during a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya. The AUEOM will also produce a more detailed report, including recommendations, within two months after the elections.

Source: South African Government News Agency

Aid Groups Split Over Italy’s New Rules for Migrant Rescues

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ROME � Five aid groups that operate migrant rescue ships in the Mediterranean refused to sign up to the Italian government’s code of conduct on Monday, the Interior Ministry said, but three others backed the new rules.

Charity boats have become increasingly important in rescue operations, picking up more than a third of all migrants brought ashore so far this year against less than one percent in 2014, according to the Italian coast guard.

Italy fears the groups are facilitating people smuggling from North Africa and encouraging migrants to make the perilous passage to Europe, and it proposed a code containing around a dozen points for the charities.

Those who refused to sign the document had put themselves “outside the organized system of sea rescues, with all the concrete consequences that can have”, the ministry said.

Italy had previously threatened to shut its ports to NGOs that did not sign up, but an Interior Ministry source said in reality those groups would face more checks from Italian authorities.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which has taken part in many of the rescues of some 95,000 migrants brought to Italy this year, attended a meeting at the Interior Ministry but refused to sign the code.

MSF objected most strongly to a requirement that aid boats must take migrants to a safe port themselves, rather than transferring people to other vessels, which allows smaller boats to stay in the area for further rescues.

“Our vessels are often overwhelmed by the high number of [migrant] boats … and life and death at sea is a question of minutes,” MSF Italy’s director Gabriele Eminente wrote in a letter to Interior Minister Marco Minniti.

“The code of conduct puts at risk this fragile equation of collaboration between different boats,” Eminente continued, adding that MSF still wanted to work with the ministry to improve sea rescues.

But Save The Children gave its backing, saying it already complied with most of the rules and would monitor constantly to be sure that applying them did not obstruct their work.

“We would not have signed if even one single point would have compromised our effectiveness. This is not the case, not one single point of the code will hinder our activities,” Save The Children Italy director Valerio Neri said after the meeting.

The Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and Spanish group Proactiva Open Arms agreed to the conditions, but Germany’s Sea-Watch, Sea-Eye and Jugend Rettet, and France’s SOS Mediterranee abstained.

MSF, SOS Mediterranee and Jugend Rettet also called for clarity on the rules and took issue with a clause in the code which would oblige groups to accept police officers on board.

“For us the most controversial point … was the commitment to help the Italian police with their investigations and possibly take armed police officers on board,” Jugend Rettet coordinator Titus Molkenbur said. “That is antithetical to the humanitarian principles of neutrality that we adhere to, and we cannot be seen as being part of the conflict.”

Source: Voice of America