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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 15:42 GMT
Kenya press frets as vote nears
African press graphic

As next Monday's referendum on Kenya's new constitution looks set to go ahead after a court rejected an appeal to cancel it on grounds of illegality, leading newspapers there express concern at the level of violence and intolerance surrounding it.

Comparisons are made with the violence in other African countries and in France and there is a particular fear that "hate speeches" are fanning the flames of unrest.

The Standard argues that "there is then no need for the kind of intolerance and hatred we have witnessed in the last few days".

"Kenyans must remember that there will be life and a nation to take care of after next Monday."

The editorial - headlined "This is a critical week in the life of this country" - speaks of "an eventful two months of campaigning during which the country has been treated to an awesome circus".

We should be concerned at these hate speeches. Need we forget Rwanda so soon?
Columnist in Standard

Writing in the same paper, columnist Jerry Okungu says that "hate talk at campaign rallies must be stopped".

He says that in the last month alone, "42 hate speeches were made by politicians of both political divides at the referendum rallies countrywide".

"At a time when France, of all countries, is on fire literally, Sudan next door is yet to realize genuine peace and Somalia yet to become a nation a gain, we should be concerned at these hate speeches... Need we forget Rwanda so soon?"

Another editorial in the Standard urges the electoral authorities to "remain firm and, if it indeed intended to act tough on those who fan violence, crack its whip."

The top-selling Nation also brings up the case of the unrest in France, suggesting the French authorities could teach their Kenyan counterparts a thing or two.

"The killing of four people by police at a political rally in Mombasa ... is a source of concern... Contrast this with the events in France in the past two weeks. During the rioting and destruction of property across France, nobody has been killed by the police."

"Our officers must demonstrate that they are competent to handle rioting, unarmed civilians," argues the editorial headlined: "Shun brute force in policing".

'High stakes game'

The theme of violence is also reflected in a selection of headlines from the People Daily: "Youth urged to shun violence"; "Minister justifies use of live bullets at 'No' rally"; and "Plebiscite: Church head appeals for calm".

Headlines in the Standard highlight the imminence of the vote: "The final sprint" and "High stakes game as rivals schedule their final meetings".

The people of Makueni might not care much for the coming referendum. There are more elemental needs to be attended to

The Standard also reports that "away from the referendum and the euphoria in the countdown to next Monday's plebiscite, a sorry state of affairs is enacting itself in the eastern part of the country".

"Thousands are going hungry in Makueni District owing to failure of rains and persistent drought. The people of Makueni, who are also voters, might not care much for the coming referendum. There are more elemental needs to be attended to.

"But this does not mean they are lesser citizens or that they must live in desperation because the elements have not been kind to them."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

Q&A: Kenya referendum
15 Nov 05 |  Africa

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