Former US President Barack Obama has emerged from the shadows to discuss the ongoing political situation in Kenya, his father’s home country.
Nearly 20 million Kenyan voters were scheduled to elect a new president for East Africa’s richest economy in a tight race on Tuesday, which pitted incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta against his longtime rival, Raila Odinga.
Fears of electoral violence rose in late July, when the campaign for the hotly contested general election ended with the murder of a top election official.
“I urge Kenyan leaders to reject violence and incitement; respect the will of the people; urge security forces to act professionally and neutrally; and work together no matter the outcome,” Obama said in a statement, six months after leaving the White House.
“I urge all Kenyans to work for an election — and aftermath — that is peaceful and credible, reinforcing confidence in your new Constitution and the future of your country. Any disputes around the election should be resolved peacefully, through Kenya’s institutions and the rule of law,” he added.
Obama said he was disappointed with the campaign so far, which has been marked with a raid on the vice president’s country estate, and reports of a rigged vote in favor of Kenyatta. There have even been rumors of a planned armed raid by officials on one of the opposition’s tallying centers.
“In Kenya’s election we have already seen too much incitement and appeals based on fear from all sides,” Obama said. “But I also know that the Kenyan people as a whole will be the losers if there is a descent into violence. You can make clear that you will reject those that want to deal in tribal and ethnic hatred.”
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Obama’s father, Barack Sr., left the country a year after her wife, Stanley Ann, gave birth to their son.
As president, Obama made a high-profile visit to Kenya in 2015, where he was celebrated as the country’s most famous son.
Back then, as called on Uhuru’s government to fortify the fragile democracy in the country, tackle corruption, overcome ethnic divisions and protect human rights.
The two presidents signed an “action plan” to increase Kenya’s security in its battle against the al-Shabab.
During the trip, Obama also met with his half-sister Auma Obama and his step-grandmother, known as Mama Sarah.