As Kenya goes to the polls on Monday to elect a new government, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) calls on the Kenyan authorities to ensure that the elections are conducted peacefully and in full accordance with international standards. This is vital in order to ensure that members of all communities feel they have a say in the country's future.
This is an exciting moment for Kenya, since the country stands at a crossroads. A lot of effort has gone into ensuring that the ghosts of the 2007 post-election violence have been exorcised. Now, the government has to commit to a fair and peaceful election, says Jolly Kemigabo, MRGs Africa Office Manager.
An orderly election process is vital in order to ensure that members of the countrys minority and indigenous communities feel able to take part. According to Wilson Kipkazi, Programme Coordinator at the Endorois Welfare Council, a Kenyan community organization, until the passage of the 2010 Constitution, minorities and indigenous peoples were largely excluded from political processes and public affairs.
The stakes are particularly high for minorities in this election given that the Constitution grants juridical recognition to marginalized communities for the first time. The next administration will have the task of translating the ambitious aspirations contained in the new Constitution into reality, says Kipkazi.
MRG says in a recent report, Taking diversity seriously: minorities and political participation in Kenya, that legal recognition will not improve the situation for minorities unless appropriate legislative and regulatory regimes, as well as development programmes are put in place.
An orderly and fair election will only be a necessary first step, continues Kemigabo. As MRGs research has shown, last years violence was a grim reminder of the need to resolve the thorny issue of historical and institutionalized marginalization that has divided Kenya along dangerous ethnic fault lines.
Late last year, Kenya saw an escalation in violence particularly in the volatile coastal and Rift Valley regions. For instance, in September 2012, the country made headlines when two northern region ethnic groups, the settled Pokomo farmers and the semi-nomadic Orma pastoralists, clashed and sparked a humanitarian crisis.
MRG has consistently called for the active involvement of Kenyas minority and indigenous communities in the political and development processes of the country. This is vital in order to stave off ethnic and religious tensions that would throw Kenya back into a state of insecurity.
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