US President Barack Obama on Tuesday made a passionate plea to the Kenyan voters, the home of his father, to use the 4 March presidential and parliamentary elections to demonstrate the country’s maturing democracy.
Insisting on Washington’s neutrality in election, the US President said he was impressed with Kenya’s recovery from the effects of the 2007/08 post-election violence.
The US President said this in an address to Kenyans in a televised message broadcast on radio, his first major address to Kenyans since his re-election.
‘This election can be another milestone towards a truly democratic Kenya defined by the rule of law and strong institutions. If you take that step and reject the path of violence and division, Kenya can move forward towards prosperity,’ Obama said.
Kenya’s last general elections in 2007/08 descended into a chaotic post-electoral period, leading to the death of about 1,300 people and the displacement of 650,000 people.
President Obama said his government would not endorse any candidate in Kenya.
He said Kenyans must resolve their electoral disputes in court, not on the streets adding that he would not support any candidates, but Washington would insist on free and fair elections.
‘This is a moment for the people of Kenya to come together, instead of tearing apart, if you do, you can show the world that you are not just a member of a tribe or ethnic group, but citizens of a great and proud nation. I can’t imagine a better way to mark the 50th anniversary of Kenya’s independence,’ Obama said.
Kenya’s main presidential election contender, Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto, welcomed President Obama’s pledge to remain neutral.
‘I welcome the statement by President Obama that the choice of who will lead Kenya would be decided by the people of Kenya,’ Kenyatta told a news conference on Tuesday.
His deputy Ruto said the US assurance was the most reassuring statement by a foreign power that they would be willing to work with whoever won the polls.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga is running for the Presidency against Kenyatta and six other Presidential candidates.