World News

Rights group cites "vote-buying" in Kenya

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Kenyan rights group said on Friday it had secretly filmed several politicians running in Monday’s regional elections illegally handing out cash to would-be voters at rallies.

A woman walks past a campaign poster of Kenya's Deputy Prime Minister and presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta at the Kangemi slum in Kenya's capital Nairobi February 28, 2013. Kenya will hold its presidential and parliamentary elections on March 4. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

The March 4 general elections are the first since the east African country signed in a new constitution aimed at improving its democratic credentials, but the video recordings were evidence some old political habits die hard.

“Several aspirants have engaged in attempts to induce support from voters through the direct and indirect disbursement of money,” the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) said.

Bribery is so widespread that many Kenyans expect to be paid for turning up at rallies, analysts say, but it is rarely caught on camera.

Monitors from the watchdog used small cameras and mobile phones to secretly film aspirants running for regional seats dishing out cash.

In one grainy video shot in Western Kenya, an aspiring county governor handed a wad of cash to aides who then distributed the money to supporters who had been made to kneel in lines among trees.

Another clip showed a Nairobi politician promising jobs and food to a small crowd in a down-trodden city neighbourhood before passing a bundle of cash to one youth with instructions he share the money out.

KHRC said it had other examples and would pass the videos on the authorities.

Kenyans will chose a new president next week in a tightly contested race that has once again split the east African nation along ethnic divides. Five years ago the now-outgoing President Mwai Kibaki’s disputed win triggered weeks of violent unrest.

A reformed electoral body, cleaned up judiciary and joint calls for peace by the eight presidential candidates were important steps to achieving a smooth handover of power this time around, KHRC said.

But worries still linger. Election-related clashes, intimidation, hate speech and misuse of state resources remained a concern, the commission said.

“We are so obsessed with peace that we are overlooking good governance. Election choices we make now are going to determine the fate of this country for the elective period,” George Morora, a programme officer at KHRC, told reporters.

Editing by Edmund Blair