June 6, 2017 / 2:52 PM / 2 months ago

Kenyan election body removes official over ballot delays

2 Min Read

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's electoral body said on Tuesday it had removed a senior official from his post over a delay in preparing ballot papers for elections due in August.

Lawy Aura, the director of procurement, will now be reassigned to another department, said Andrew Limo, a spokesman for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Aura was in charge of acquiring voting materials and equipment for the coming elections.

"We are addressing the delayed sourcing of ballot papers," IEBC said on its Twitter. Limo would not comment on how Aura's removal would affect preparations for the voting.

The Aug. 8 elections are expected to be closely contested, with some 13,000 people seeking office at the national and local levels. President Uhuru Kenyatta is running for a second and final term, with opposition leader Raila Odinga his main challenger.

Preparations for the voting are being closely watched, especially by the opposition, which disputed the outcome of the previous two elections.

In October, previous commissioners resigned after months of protests by the opposition, which had accused the body of bias that made it unfit to oversee elections.

"It sends a very strong signal, because this is someone who must have done all the planning for this particular exercise and following through timelines that had been set," Mulle Musau, the national coordinator of he Election Observation Group, told Reuters.

"When you remove them at this particular time, then you are nearly throwing things into disarray, because you are leaving a new person to take charge with less that 60 days to the election."

The last elections, in 2013, were largely peaceful, but the country is still haunted by the violence that followed the disputed 2007 presidential poll, when political protests rapidly turned into ethnic bloodletting. More than 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 fled their homes.

Reporting by John Ndiso; Editing by George Obulutsa, Larry King

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