Why Kenyans are nervous about presidential vote

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Kenyans vote Tuesday in a close presidential election between President Uhuru Kenyatta, who seeks a second term, and Raila Odinga, who lost the last two contests. The East African high-tech and commercial hub of 44 million people is often described as one of the continent’s most politically stable countries, but the torture and killing of a top election official has many recalling the disputed 2007 election between the same candidates that left more than 1,000 people dead.

A look at the issues around the vote:



Kenyatta and Odinga are from storied political families. Kenyatta is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, and Odinga is the son of Jaramogi Odinga Odinga, the country’s first vice president. In Tuesday’s balloting, which includes other minor candidates, one must win more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff election.

After losing the past two elections, this could be the last chance for the 72-year-old Raila Odinga to claim the seat that eluded his father. Odinga says he wants to restore a strong government, stamp out corruption and improve the lives of the poorest Kenyans.

The 55-year-old Kenyatta wants to avoid becoming the first Kenyan president not to win re-election. He won in 2013 with 50.03 percent of the vote, triggering an unsuccessful legal challenge by Odinga. Kenyatta at the time faced criminal charges at the International Criminal Court over his alleged role in the 2007 election violence. Those charges were dropped due to lack of evidence, with the ICC prosecutor blaming unprecedented witness interference and bribery.

This time, Kenyatta has appeared more confident while campaigning, pointing to major infrastructure projects, many backed by China, and claiming strong economic growth.



Most political organizing in Kenya is tied to ethnicity. Many voters see Kenyatta as the candidate of the Kikuyu people, the country’s largest ethnic group, and Odinga representing the Luo. That the Luo have never produced a head of state adds drama to the election.

“Many middle-class Kenyans will, in an instant, go from speaking of globalization and borderless innovation while sipping on their cafe macchiatos to offering blind support to a well-known thug who happens to be from their tribes,” journalist Daniel Kalinaki wrote in a recent column for the Daily Monitor newspaper.

Kenyatta’s running mate under the Jubilee coalition, Deputy President William Ruto, is expected to…

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