Kenya moves to replace election officials after protests

September 27, 2016 9:22 AM EDT

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NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's government said on Tuesday it was taking steps to replace all its electoral commissioners under a deal with the opposition to resolve a row that has led to protests and violence.

Rivals in parliament have held talks to end the dispute over the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which critics said was biased and not fit to oversee elections scheduled for August 2017.

A government statement said a committee representing several government agencies "will lead negotiations with the IEBC commissioners to facilitate the orderly and dignified exit of current commissioners and ensure a seamless transition".

Violence has often been a feature of Kenyan elections. After the 2007 vote, ethnic fighting left 1,200 people dead.

Opposition protests against the 10-strong commission erupted in April and led to a least four deaths when youths blocked roads and clashed with police.

The opposition Coalition for Reform and Democracy coalition led by Raila Odinga had tried but failed to overturn the result of a 2013 election won by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The opposition complained about the failure of electronic voter identification devices and other technical glitches, which they blamed on the shortcomings of the commission and corruption.

The commissioners earlier this year denied allegations of malpractice, rejected accusations of bias and vowed to stay on.

The government initially backed the commissioners, but in June agreed to a bipartisan parliamentary committee to resolve the dispute, a move that prompted the opposition to call off the protests.

The government statement did not give a date for when the electoral officials would leave office but said the government "recognizes the urgency that accompanies the ongoing transition process."

(Reporting by George Obulutsa and Elias Biryabarema; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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