Mon, Mar 04, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Alleged threat of violence casts pall over Kenya vote


Julius Waweru, a 25-year-old studying to become an electrician, wore multiple Kenyatta hats.

“I support Uhuru Kenyatta because he is young, and we need to change this government for a younger generation,” he said.

Just down Nairobi’s main street, perhaps 3km away, tens of thousands of supporters of Odinga filled a sports stadium. Supporters held a dozen or so US flags aloft. Odinga and US President Barack Obama’s father come from the same tribe.

Nicholas Owino, 56, a resident of Nairobi’s Korogocho slum, wore a hat made of dozens of oranges, the color of Odinga’s party.

“My life is not good and I have not benefited from my support of Odinga since 2004, but I am confident if he becomes president, my children will benefit,” said Owino, who said he lost his grocery store during rioting in 2007-2008 and has not yet recovered it.

More than 600,000 people were forced from their homes during the violence.

Odinga told the stadium crowd that Kenya has stagnated the last 50 years because the “status quo” has remained in power.

“This can only change by voting in the forces of change,” Odinga said.

Monday’s vote is the most important and complicated in the country’s 50-year history. Despite efforts to promote peace, there are many reasons why the vote could turn tumultuous.

The Somalia militant group al-Shabaab may try to attack voters or disrupt the vote; a secessionist group on Kenya’s coast has threatened violence; new political divisions known as counties will see 47 new races for governor, creating sources of new friction; and tensions are high in some regions between Odinga’s tribe — the Luo — and Kenyatta’s tribe — the Kikuyu.

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