Kenyans must 'come together' for fair vote: Clinton
8/5/2012 2:00:00 AM -
NAIROBI (AFP) - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on Kenyans to work together to ensure free and fair elections next year and avoid a repeat of the deadly post-poll violence seen four years ago.
"We urge that the nation come together and prepare for elections that will be a real model for the entire world," Clinton said Saturday after talks with President Mwai Kibaki in Nairobi on the latest leg of her Africa tour.
Kenya plunged into violence after the December 2007 election in which Prime Minister Raila Odinga -- then opposition chief -- accused the incumbent Kibaki of having rigged his re-election.
What began as political riots soon turned into ethnic killings targeting members of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, who in turn launched reprisal attacks in the country's worst violence since independence in 1963.
Kenya, East Africa's economic powerhouse, is due in March to hold its first general election since the violence.
"The US has pledged to assist the government of Kenya to ensure that the upcoming elections are free, fair and transparent," Clinton added, speaking ahead of talks with Odinga, a key candidate in the race for the presidency.
"Not only is this important for the people of Kenya, but the eyes of the world will be on this election. And I have absolute confidence that Kenya has a chance to be a model for other nations, not just here in Africa but around the world."
Clinton warned that "the unrest that can result from a disputed election has a terrible cost, both in lives lost and in economic impact.
"The instability that followed the last election cost the Kenyan economy, by most estimates, more than one billion dollars. So it is essential for government and civil society to work together."
Kibaki will not contest the next election.
Two presidential hopefuls, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former minister William Ruto, face trial in April in the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity over the post-election killings, charges they deny.
They face charges including orchestrating murder, rape and persecution in the aftermath of the poll.
Clinton, who is to travel to Malawi on Sunday, later met with Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, whose transitional government is approaching the end of its mandate later this month after an eight-year interim period marred by infighting, minimal political progress and rampant corruption.
She said she was "very encouraged by the progress" in the fragile political process to elect a new government in Somalia before an August 20 deadline.
Clinton also met with other members of Somalia's notoriously fractious political elite, including parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, one of dozens of candidates challenging Sharif for the job of president.
Ravaged by repeated droughts and over two decades of conflict, Somalia is torn between rival clans, Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents and the Western-backed government, which is propped up by a 17,000-strong African Union force.
Kenya, which invaded Somalia last year before joining the AU force, is a key US ally and closely linked to Washington's efforts to quash Islamist movements in the volatile Horn of Africa region.
Late Friday, one person was killed in a grenade attack in a Nairobi suburb, the latest in a string of blasts in Kenya since its troops invaded southern Somalia to crush extremist insurgent bases there.
Clinton visited neighbouring Uganda and South Sudan on Friday when she called for a "compromise" deal between rivals in Juba and Khartoum to resume oil production, stalled in a bitter dispute that brought the newly separated rivals to the brink of all-out war earlier this year.
Hours later, in the early hours of Saturday, African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki said that the parties had "agreed on all of the financial arrangements regarding oil".