Kenya

Kibaki pledges peaceful polls, transition

By FRED OLUOCH

Posted Saturday, April 28 2012 at 14:19

Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki sought to allay regional anxieties in his “state of the nation” speech on Tuesday last week, promising a peaceful transition in next year’s general election.

Fears have been growing that a fresh round of election violence in Kenya could destabilise East Africa.

President Kibaki said the government had put in place necessary institutions and measures to ensure free, fair and credible elections.

The 2007/8 post-election violence in East Africa’s largest economy brought trade in the region to a virtual standstill given that Kenya is the gateway to the world for four landlocked countries — Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.

Particularly affected was Uganda, Kenya’s leading trading partner, which depends on the port of Mombasa for its imports, especially of fuel.

The business community in particular had been apprehensive that violence in Kenya could spell doom for the regional economic and political integration process.

The four Kenyan cases at the International Criminal Court have polarised the country, raising prospects of violence once the trials of the four suspects kick off.

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, former head of public service Francis Muthaura, Eldoret North MP William Ruto and radio presenter Joshua arap Sang will be tried by the ICC for masterminding the post-election violence.

This is in addition to the increasingly charged competition for the Kibaki succession, which has divided the country on ethnic lines. A number of local and international human rights organisations have warned that Kenya could relapse into violence if leaders do not stop raising ethnic tensions.

Also raising tension are the unresolved differences among the coalition partners, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, over the election date, besides the emergence of a separatist group at the Kenyan Coast who have threatened to disrupt the election.

President Kibaki also emphasised the need to ensure peace in neighbouring Somalia and South Sudan, whose stability is critical to the prosperity of the region. All three countries have applied for membership of the East African Community.

Kenya last October launched a military campaign inside Somalia to neutralise Al Shabaab militants, an intervention that security analysts say has increased the chances of terrorist attacks in all the EAC member states.