Kenya charges 62 after party primaries marred by violence, fraud

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya has charged 62 people with offences linked to party primaries for national elections in August, including bribing voters and inciting violence, the prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.

The Aug. 8 presidential ballot between incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga will run alongside elections for members of parliament and local officials.

Devolution of some powers to county level under Kenyatta’s presidency, and the associated access to lucrative local budgets and high official salaries, has sparked intense interest in the local contests.

Last month’s primaries for those seats, in which voters chose party candidates, were marred by violence, claims of rigging and canceled ballots. Record numbers of candidates who failed to secure party tickets have also rushed to register as independents.

Among the 62 charged were one sitting lawmaker and a candidate for the governorship of one of the country’s 47 local authorities, the director of public prosecutions (DPP) said in a statement.

Political parties are due to hand over the names of their candidates to the electoral commission by May 10, and the DPP said it would work to ensure “a secure environment for a free and peaceful election”.

Kenya’s last elections in 2013 were largely trouble-free.

But the country is still haunted by the two months of violence that followed a disputed presidential poll in 2007, when political protests degenerated into ethnic bloodletting. More than 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 fled their homes.

Reporting by George Obulutsa; editing by John Stonestreet