Kenyans prep for elections amid violence

Feb. 22, 2013 at 11:03 AM
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NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Kenyans soon will vote to elect leaders for the first time since 2007, when more than 1,000 people died in post-election violence, observers said.

Analysts said Kenya is considered a bellwether country as far as power-sharing and political reconciliation goes and the elections will indicate whether these actions have paid off, The New York Times reported.

"The rest of Africa wants to know whether it's possible to learn from past elections and ensure violence doesn't flare again," said Phil Clark, a lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. "With five years' warning, is it possible to address the causes of conflict and transfer power peacefully?"

The elections are March 4.

Since the 2007 elections and their bloody aftermath, Kenya has worked to heal itself and taken steps to move forward in its governing -- notably passing a new constitution -- but two candidates charged with crimes against humanity have a real chance of being elected, the Times said.

As the election draws closer, violence has picked up. Seven civilians were ambushed and killed in northeastern Kenya Thursday in what activists characterized as a politically motivated attack.

On Wednesday, Kenya's chief justice said a criminal group threatened him with "dire consequences" if he ruled against a leading presidential contender, the Times said.

Also, farmers in the Rift Valley said cattle rustling has increased, accusing politicians of being behind the raids for the purpose of fomenting a rift among communities.

Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are running on the same ticket for president and deputy president. Both have been charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity stemming from the violence following the 2007 elections.

One observer told the Times that while this year's elections may be chaotic, they won't be as bad as the last time.

"Things are different," said Maina Kiai, a Kenyan human rights advocate. "There may be new arenas of violence. But I don't think the extent of violence will be the same."

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