Final rallies for Kenya poll rivals

The two front-runners in Kenya’s presidential election have been holding their final rallies in Nairobi, ahead of Monday’s vote. PM Raila Odinga and deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta are favourites to succeed President Kibaki, in the first poll since the post-2007 election violence.

Tens of thousands of people attended the rallies in central Nairobi.

President Mwai Kibaki has urged Kenyans to vote peacefully on Monday and for the losers to accept defeat.

All the candidates have promised to respect the result of the vote and urged their supporters to refrain from violence.

The election is the first to be held under a new constitution, adopted in 2010 in an attempt to avoid a repeat of ethnic clashes in which more than 1,200 people were killed and an estimated 600,000 forced from their homes.

The post-election violence in 2007-8 broke out after Raila Odinga claimed he had been cheated of victory by supporters of President Mwai Kibaki.

Mr Odinga later joined a government of national unity under a peace deal.

His main rival this time, Uhuru Kenyatta, is facing trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague in a few weeks’ time for allegedly orchestrating some of the bloodshed. He denies the charges.

Huge crowds dressed in red – the colour of his party – cheered and sang as Mr Kenyatta gave his final address in the Uhuru stadium that shares his first name – meaning “Freedom” in Swahili.

“I want to promise you that we will change Kenya for the better,” Mr Kenyatta told them.

Just over a kilometre away, Mr Odinga’s supporters – bedecked in his orange party colours – filled the Nyayo national stadium to hear him promise victory.

“Be peaceful because we are winning!” he said.

“In the unlikely event that we are defeated we will accept the result”.

The third main candidate of the eight running for the presidency, former vice-president Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi, was holding rallies in western Kenya, reports said.

‘Hate speech’

Mwai Kibaki is standing down after two terms as president, but the events of 2007-8 continue to worry Kenyans.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) this week released a report detailing cases of violence, hate speech and ethnic intimidation, warning that campaigns had “continued to raise emotions and inflame passions as they campaign for votes”.

On Saturday Mr Odinga denied a report in the Financial Times quoting him as saying that if he lost it would be “because of blackmail and intimidation”. Mr Odinga called the story a “total fabrication” and said he felt “absolutely slandered”.

Mr Kenyatta condemned the reported remarks as “dangerous and inflammatory”.

“Cast your vote and keep the peace,” President Kibaki said in a televised address to the nation on Friday.

“Let us send a clear message to the world that our democracy has come of age. A peaceful vote is a vote for a secure, prosperous and stable Kenya.”

The government says some 99,000 police officers are being deployed around the country, at polling stations and vote counts, in order to prevent a repeat of the violence.

Presidential candidates must secure support from across the country in order to be declared the victor, so they cannot just rely on support from their ethnic groups, as has been the case in previous elections.

If no candidate obtains more than 50% of the vote, there will be a run-off on 11 April.

Elections are also being held for members of parliament, new posts of regional governors and members of county assemblies.

Source: BBC

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