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Obama calls for calm in Kenyan elections

IANS | Washington |

Former US President Barack Obama called for calm in Tuesday's general elections in Kenya, where there are concerns over a possible resurgence of violence stemming from political and ethnic tensions.

Obama, whose father was born in Kenya and who still has a family in the African country, issued a long statement on Monday calling on Kenyan citizens as well as its leaders to leave fear and division behind, reports Efe news.

"Reject a politics of tribe and ethnicity, and embrace the extraordinary potential of an inclusive democracy" Obama said in the statement. 

"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." 

It is feared that Tuesday's elections will have parallels with the 2007 elections, which resulted in violence that killed 1,100 people and forced 600,000 to leave their homes.

The candidates are from opposing tribes, and current President Uhuru Kenyatta has been accused of rigging the elections process by his rival Raila Odinga, who also participated in the 2007 presidential elections and refused to accept his defeat, which led to the bloody clashes between tribes.

"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," Obama said.

"As a friend of the Kenyan people, I urge you to work for a future defined not by fear and division, but by unity and hope." 

Obama commented that there has already been "too much incitement and appeals based on fear from all sides" during the current Kenyan elections campaign, and warned that "the Kenyan people as a whole will be the losers if there is a descent into violence".

The former US President recalled that Kenyans "know more than any the needless pain and agony" that triggered the crisis in 2007 and, therefore, they have "the ultimate responsibility" to prevent the similar situation from happening again.

"I hope you will choose to build on this inclusive spirit to further advance the gains that have been made, rather than putting them at risk," he added.