8 August 2017

Kenya Votes in Divisive Election

Kenyans have begun voting in general elections amid tight security and fears of post-election violence. Former US President Barack Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, urged leaders to respect the "will of the people."

Kenyans on Tuesday voted in divisive elections that pit incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta against veteran opposition leader and longtime rival Raila Odinga.

From local politicians to international observers, people in Kenya are hoping for peaceful elections. DW correspondent Sella Oneko said voters "hope that everything will pass quickly, so that things go back to normal."

"Many people are very disillusioned and feel that elections and politicians haven't and won't improve things," said Oneko.

Post-election violence left 1,200 people dead in 2007, when Odinga claimed the vote had been rigged against him. Five years later, Odinga cried foul again. However, Kenya's courts upheld the official tally following a lengthy legal process.

'Reject violence'

Analysts believe that no matter the outcome the losing candidate is likely to make allegations of fraud, which could spark ethnic violence similar to that of 2007.

"It seems almost inevitable that whoever loses will question the result. The question is not whether or not they will accept the result but what they will do when they don't accept it," Nic Cheeseman, professor of African politics at Birmingham University in England, told AFP news agency.

Tensions rose last week when the electoral commission's top IT manager Chris Msando was found tortured to death in a forest outside the capital, Nairobi.

In a rare move, former US President Barack Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, has called on Kenyans to resist violence and ensure a peaceful electoral process.

"I urge all Kenyans to work for an election - and aftermath - that is peaceful and credible, reinforcing confidence in your new constitution and the future of your country," Obama said in a statement on Monday. "I urge Kenyan leaders to reject violence and incitement. Respect the will of the people."

'Excluded from governance structure'

Analysts believe Tuesday's vote marks the final showdown between a dynastic rivalry that emerged between the candidates' fathers during the struggle for independence more than half a century ago.

However, opposition leader Odinga told DW that if he wins, he will make rooting out corruption a priority along with uniting the country.

"Basically, they have been looking out for their friends. So it is not even the communities that are benefiting. That has polarized the country, because other people feel completely excluded from the governance structure," Odinga said, referring to Kenyatta's policies.

More than 19 million Kenyan citizens are registered to vote in the election, of which half are under the age of 35.


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