- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2017

Former President Barack Obama called Monday for the people of Kenya to resist violence and embrace a peaceful democratic process as the African country braces for a presidential election many fear could spark violent protests regardless of the outcome.

Mr. Obama, whose father was Kenyan, called on the country’s political 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,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.

Kenyan police are braced for rioting and bloodshed after the vote Tuesday decides a fiercely fought campaign between the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, and opposition leader Raila Odinga, a former prime minister who lost elections to Mr. Kenyatta in 2007 and 2013.

The race has already been marred by hundreds of violent incidents, including the brutal and still-unsolved killing of a key election monitoring official just over a week ago. Mr. Odinga warned his supporters Monday that the election likely would be rigged by the ruling party.

The East African high-tech and commercial hub of 44 million people is often described as one of the continent’s most politically stable countries, and a prolonged period of instability, tribal tensions and contested leadership could be felt far beyond Kenya’s borders.

Fearing a repeat of bloody clashes after the contested 2007 presidential election, which left more than 1,000 people dead, Mr. Obama told the Kenyan people that they had the power to resist violence.

“The ultimate responsibility is in the hands of the people of Kenya, who know more than any the needless pain and agony thousands suffered as a result of the crisis in 2007,” he said. “Kenya has come a long way in the last two decades — undertaking a peaceful transition of power in 2002; and, following the horrific violence around the 2007 election, working hard to recover from crisis and embracing a new Constitution.”

Mr. Obama has strong ties to Kenya. He first visited his father’s country in 1987, when he was in his 20s. He visited the country as president in 2015, and his secretary of state, John Kerry, is leading a team of international officials who have traveled to Nairobi to monitor Tuesday’s vote.

The chief justice of Kenya’s top court, who met with Mr. Kerry and the international delegation, said the judiciary will resolve any disputes that might arise from a tightly contested election on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.

David Maraga, president of Kenya’s Supreme Court, said Monday that “we are ready to deal” with any problems after the vote. More than 180,000 agents from various organs of state security are also believed to have been deployed for the election, the BBC reported.

Polls are predicting another very close race, only heightening fears that the losing side may refuse to accept the results.

Mr. Obama said the election Tuesday would be a new milestone for the country.

“I urge President Kenyatta, Mr. Odinga, and all Kenyans to act with respect for the proverb: ‘We have not inherited this land from our forebears, we have borrowed it from our children,’” he said. “The choices you make in the coming days can either set Kenya back or bring it together. 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.”

⦁ This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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