Kenya goes to the Polls on Monday, MAR 4, 2013 – Brookings

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On Monday, Kenyans will head to the polls to elect their fourth president in the most crucial election the country has held since its independence. This is first election since 2007, when post-election violence erupted, killing over 1,000 Kenyans.

kenya_nairobi_lg_mapIn this week’s Global Update, my colleagues and I from the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative weigh in on Kenya’s upcoming election, reflecting on 2007, and asking important questions about Kenya’s future as a democracy.

This historic event has provoked intense emotions across the country, with many citizens experiencing a rare combination of hope for the future and anxiety about the past. Earlier this week, my colleague Mwangi S. Kimenyi and I discussed Kenya’s national mood with Karuti Kanyinga, professor at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi. Our conversation recounts personal experiences from the tragic post-election violence of 2007, as well as what we believe has been progress made to reconcile and heal the people of Kenya.

The 2007 ethnic violence has left its mark on the Kenyan people and I sat down recently with my Brookings colleague Anne W. Kamau and Professor Karuti Kanyinga from the University of Nairobi to recount our personal experiences from the 2007 tragedy and consider what progress has been made to reconcile and heal the country. Each of us remembered, after casting our votes in Nairobi, the unexpected, overnight transition from peace to violence—a feeling that contributes to a lingering anxiety shared by many Kenyans as we look toward March 4.

Watch my conversation with Anne Kamau and Karuti Kanyinga »

We hope you enjoy this, and Kwaheri, and kila la heri Kenya!

Part 2

While the election has attracted eight candidates, the real contest is between the current prime minister, Raila Odinga, and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta—two men whose ethnic rivalries date back generations. Further complicating the rivalry is the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate were indicted last March by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their connection in inciting ethnic violence after the 2007 election. The Obama administration has said it supports Kenya’s right to a free and fair election. Meanwhile, the State Department has cautioned Kenyans that their election-day decision could have consequences for how the global community sees Kenya.

I’ve written more about the candidates and their backgrounds on brookings.edu, and I invite you to get to know them in advance of Monday’s historic election.

brookings kenya 2There’s no doubt that having free, fair and peaceful elections in Kenya this coming Monday will go a long way to stabilizing democracy across Africa, and there’s also an opportunity for Kenyans to find unity in healing from past tragedies.

But the next president has to not only think about the ethnic divisions in Kenya, but must also focus on providing good schools, access to health care, and food security for all the Kenyan people.

If you’d like to read more, you can find a full range of our commentary and analysis on the upcoming Kenyan elections on the Brookings website.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you and welcome any comments or feedback on our work.

Sincerely,
Mwangi Kimenyi
Director, Africa Growth Initiative
Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development
Twitter: @MwangiKimenyi

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