President Obama surfaced today with a message for his father’s home country to refrain from violence in Tuesday’s contentious election.
Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga are locked in a tight race with fears of computerized voting failing as it did in 2013. The head of technology for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Chris Msando, was murdered last week. He had been tortured and strangled to death, with his body dumped in a wooded area outside Nairobi.
In a statement to the Kenyan people released by the former commander in chief’s office, Obama reminisced on his visit to the country two years ago. “I said then that Kenya was at a crossroads – a moment of extraordinary promise but also potential peril. To move forward, Kenyans have to reject a politics of tribe and ethnicity, and embrace the extraordinary potential of an inclusive democracy. As Kenyans vote in your election, that choice is once again in your hands,” he said.
“I urge Kenyan leaders to reject violence and incitement; respect the will of the people; urge security forces to act professionally and neutrally; and work together no matter the outcome. 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. Any disputes around the election should be resolved peacefully, through Kenya’s institutions and the rule of law.”
Obama urged Kenyans not to relive the “needless pain and agony thousands suffered as a result of the crisis in 2007” and to “build on this inclusive spirit to further advance the gains that have been made, rather than putting them at risk.”
“In Kenya’s election we have already seen too much incitement and appeals based on fear from all sides. But I also know that the Kenyan people as a whole will be the losers if there is a descent into violence. You can make clear that you will reject those that want to deal in tribal and ethnic hatred,” he added. “As I said two years ago, the voices of ordinary people and civil society can make sure that Kenya will not be defined by divisions of the past, but by the promise of the future. Today, those voices – your voices – are needed more than ever.”
“Over the last three decades, since my first visit to Kenya in 1987, I have witnessed your remarkable progress and I’d like to return to see you fulfill your even more remarkable potential… as a friend of the Kenyan people, I urge you to work for a future defined not by fear and division, but by unity and hope.”
Resolutions urging transparent and peaceful elections have been introduced in both the House and Senate, but didn’t receive votes before Congress left on the their summer break.
Last week, a U.S. pollster working on behalf of Odinga was arrested by Kenyan authorities and deported.