200,000 security officers to man Kenya’s elections

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At least 200,000 security officers will be deployed across the country even as opposition moved to court once again, this time challenging the proposed deployment of military officers to complement police in provision of security on August 8.
However, this could be a tall order to achieve as the number of trained police officers in Kenya is almost half the required numbers to fully secure the 45,000 polling stations and also keep vigil in the areas that have been mapped as hotspots.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has requested Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National government to deploy at least 180,000 security officers to provide security on the elections day.
Besides provision of security at polling stations, the government is expected to deploy more security officers to hot spot areas that have been mapped out by National Cohesion and Integration Commission.
A commission of inquiry into 2007/2008 post-election violence commonly referred to as Wakicommission, blamed lack of early preparedness by security agencies and sharing of intelligence report that could have helped in nipping the violence in the bud.
The request for higher number of security officers by the electoral commission has forced Interior Ministry to coopt prison warders, Kenya Wild Life Service officers, Kenya Forest Service officers and Nation Youth Service recruits.
According to Mwenda Njoka, Interior Ministry spokesman,the coopted officers will be gazetted as officers on special assignment as required by law.
“Inspector General of Police will gazette the names of the officers who will be coopted because we do not have enough officers as requested by IEBC,” MrNjoka said.
IEBC has already directed that only presiding officers will be in charge of polling stations and security officers will act on their instructions.
“The presiding officer may order the dispersal of any gathering of persons which appears to the presiding officer to be preventing free entry to, or exit from, the polling station or to be intimidating or interfering with voters, and any such order shall be sufficient authority for a police officer, or any other person authorised by the order, to effect the dispersal,” IEBC said on Wednesday.
According to IEBC, at least two security officers will be deployed per polling station across the country with their role being securing election materials and maintaining order at the polling station.
Deployment of other discipline forces to provide security in the preparations of elections has caused tension between opposition and the government, with National Supper Alliance (Nasa) presidential candidate RailaOdinga claiming that including non-police officers in provision of security was meant to rig elections and intimidate voters.
War of words has also erupted between Nasa and Jubilee Party over the “adopt a polling station” initiative, where opposition supporters intend to mobilise voters to turn up and keep vigil after voting. Interior Cabinet Secretary has already warned that no voter will be allowed inside a polling station after voting, saying the responsibility of securing votes and materials lies with the police.
In their suit papers opposing deployment of military in the marked hotspots, Nasa says it was meant to intimidate their voters not to turn out and vote.
In addition, the opposition argued that deployment of military officers requires approval by parliament.

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