23 February 2013

Kenya: Annan Raises Concern Ahead of March 4 Polls

Nairobi — The African Union Panel of Eminent African Personalities chairman Kofi Annan has expressed concern over rising tensions in the run up to the March 4 General Election.

Annan said in a statement on Saturday that the tensions and recent violent events witnessed in the country were worrying arguing that Kenya could not afford a repeat of the 2007 violence.

He noted that intimidation, electoral violence and ethnic rivalry risked undermining the whole process and should be shunned.

"Kenyans remember the terrible consequences of the post-electoral violence in 2008. The country stood on the precipice of self-destruction. Kenya cannot risk a return to those dark days," he explained.

Annan further called upon political, religious and community leaders to spearhead campaigns that are peace driven urging the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the police to ensure that the polls were peaceful.

He said that electoral disputes that could arise following the elections should be resolved through the appropriate judicial mechanisms.

"The elections must be peaceful, free and fair. They must be conducted in accordance with the rule of law. They must be carried out with integrity, and must reflect the will of the people. Only then will national unity, stability and cohesion be safeguarded," he argued.

The IEBC and the police have already assured Kenyans of ample preparations that will ensure peace and fairness prevail in the highly anticipated elections.

Police have already identified likely violence hotspots, including Nairobi, Nyanza, South and North rifts, where special security detail will be deployed.

Annan, who was speaking on behalf of the African Union Panel of Eminent African Personalities, added that Kenya had made great strides in realising the reforms envisaged in the Constitution.

"These efforts are yielding results. The economy is showing sustained growth with the potential to attract productive investment and create decent opportunities for all," he said.

"The successful conduct of the elections on March 4 is critical to determining whether Kenya can maintain this positive momentum and achieve its potential," he cautioned.

He also commended efforts that had been made by political candidates in pushing for peace adding that a fair poll would provide security for the losers.

"Elections are not a winner-take-all political competition in which unsuccessful candidates and their supporters are marginalised. On the contrary, elections with integrity confer legitimacy on the winner and security for the loser," he said.

The March 4 General Election, is the first for Kenyans under the new Constitution and immediately after the bloodbath witnessed in the disputed 2007 election.

It is highly contested with pollsters giving a 50-50 win for either the CORD or Jubilee alliances. For the first time in history, Kenyans will have to vote in six levels.

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