Concern about Kenya violence
Riots, tribal fighting intensify fears over March vote
NAIROBI — Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan says he wants more done to stem rising violence in Kenya before a March 4 election to prevent a repetition of the bloodshed that followed the last vote five years ago.
Kenya’s many faultlines include the tribal profile of its political parties, militias fighting over land and threats of disruption to the vote by a separatist group that wants Kenya’s coastal strip to secede.
Deadly riots in the port city of Mombasa and tribal fighting on the northern coast last month have raised fears that the election in east Africa’s biggest economy will be marred again by violence and electoral abuses.
Nearly a quarter of Kenyans expect violence around the presidential vote in March, a Gallup opinion poll showed, raising fears of unrest similar to that in 2007/8 when more than 1,200 people were killed.
“When we have violence preceding elections, given the history of the country, it should be worrying for all of us.
Measures should be taken to stem the violence,” said Annan, who mediated between the warring factions last time.
His mediation brought together Mwai Kibaki, an ethnic Kikuyu, as president, and Luo tribe member Raila Odinga as prime minister, and fighting erupted after Odinga accused Kibaki of stealing his victory in the December 2007 poll.
Annan was speaking on Thursday at a news conference at the end of a visit to review Kenya’s readiness to hold elections.
He urged the country to hasten plans to reform its security sector and police force and warned politicians against inciting tribal hatred in a country where elections have traditionally been flashpoints of unrest.
Heightening tensions, two cabinet ministers were charged over inciting the violence in September, and two leading presidential hopefuls have been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged role in the bloodshed.
Former cabinet ministers, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto go on trial at the Hague-based court in April, a month after the presidential election.
There are concerns they will not honour their summons, but Kenyatta and Ruto have repeatedly said that they would do so.
There are also fears the country could face a political backlash or economic sanctions from the West should they disobey the ICC summons.
Rights groups have also asked the Kenyan High Court to stop them from running for the presidency on the grounds that the ICC charges should make them ineligible for public office.