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Security High as Polling Nears for Two Key Elections in Africa

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Special to the NNPA from GIN –

(GIN) – From colonial times to post-independence, Kenya’s food basket, the Rift Valley Province, has been key to Kenya’s politics.

Rift Valley is not just Kenya’s food basket, it is also the region where most of the flowers for the country’s lucrative export industry are grown - with extensive tea plantations, spectacular tourism sites and resorts and a few remaining rich white settler-owned farms and plantations.

It has also been the center of conflict over land ownership between groups dispossessed by white colonial settlers. The outcome of this week’s poll may settle some of these disputes.

Proposed changes to the Constitution include handing powers to Kenya’s 47 counties, such as responsibility for basic health services, agriculture, county roads and water. Public finances and authority over land would be audited by independent bodies to boost accountability.

Maximum leases on land would be reduced, retroactively, to 99 years from 999 years, making ownership accessible to more Kenyans, and property handed out by politicians to their supporters will become public land.

At least 68 percent of Kenyans back the proposed changes to the constitution, according to a recent poll by TNS Research International. About 25 percent plan to reject the document, according to the poll, which had a margin of error of 2.45 percentage points.

In Rwanda, current Pres. Paul Kagame is running for another term of seven years.

The poll was set to take place Aug. 9 amidst a crackdown on political freedoms, including media repression, jailings of opposition leaders, threats of war, attempted assassinations and several killings of political opponents.

The United Nations and U.S.-based Human Rights Watch have called for a full investigation into one of the recent killings, the near decapitation of an opposition leader.

A coalition of human rights groups, the International Humanitarian Law Institute of Minnesota, William Mitchell College of Law, and the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, among others issued a call to disregard the outcome of the election under these circumstances.

In an open letter published in The Black Star News, the group wrote: “We are calling on President Obama and the U.S. State Department not to recognize the legitimacy of Rwanda's upcoming August 9th election results and to stop militarizing Africa and supporting repressive regimes.”

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