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Sat Nov 29 05:33:34 CAT 2014

Kenyans must not again descend to ethnic poll violence

The Times Editorial | 04 March, 2013 00:10

The Times Editorial: AS Kenyans go to the polls this morning, Africa and the world will cross their fingers and hope that the outcome will not again lead to mayhem and death.

Kenya, one of East Africa's leading economies, was thrown into turmoil in 2007 when violence broke out soon after the election results were announced.

About 1100 people were killed and thousands displaced before a power-sharing government was installed the following year.

Today's elections and their outcome depend on the reactions of rival candidates Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

With Kenyatta having to contend with charges of crimes against humanity pending in the International Criminal Court, relating to the 2007 post-election violence, his victory would likely lead to Kenya's isolation.

Isolated incidents of violence have occurred in the run-up to today's election, giving a major headache to the 99000 police officers who will be on duty to safeguard the vote.

Kenya simply cannot afford to falter and allow ethnicity to take centre stage.

The days of ''big man'' politics, and of dictators who abuse their power with impunity, have passed. Democratic elections are the only way of appointing a leadership that is accountable to the people.

If Kenya fails to hold free and fair elections, and its people resort to ethnic politics to try to dictate terms, the violence the country is facing from rogue elements in Somalia is likely to intensify.

An unstable Kenya would spell disaster for East Africa and the continent.

Let us hope that Kenyans manage to emulate Ghana, which staged a relatively smooth and peaceful poll last year.

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