Friday March 8 2013

Kenyans should maintain peace

The optimism around Monday’s relatively peaceful elections in Kenya have given way to apprehension and outright worry over the delay to count and announce final results.

The delays have been blamed on the failure of the electronic vote tally system that had been put in place, and which has now been set aside in favour of manual vote tallying.

As results from the manual tallying started trickling in again yesterday, officials from the camps of the two main contenders, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta, expressed concerns about alleged vote-tampering and outright rigging.

None of the claims have been independently verified but they point to fears that the loser of the election might not accept the final result.

While the mainstream media in Kenya have largely ignored the speculation and inflammatory statements that lit the torch paper at the last election, social media is rife will all manner of allegations and conspiracy theories that could easily fan ethnic-based violence.

In order to discourage this option, the losing candidates and their supporters ought to be encouraged to seek redress in the Kenyan courts, not on the Kenyan streets.

This is a point regional leaders in the East African Community ought to make to their Kenyan counterparts.

The election is a matter for Kenyans to decide, and on which their choice must be respected but any fallout from a disputed election poses risks to the wider EAC, from disruptions to trade to a refugee crisis as happened after the 2007 election.

We must all hope that the people of Kenya, having seen how close to the cliff-edge their country came five years ago, will seek a peaceful resolution to any dispute that might arise out of this election.

But the rest of East Africa must be prepared to support the government and people of Kenya maintain stability, through the aegis of the East African Community, should that help become necessary.

As current leader of the EAC, President Museveni should engage all parties with a view to ensuring that this election ends peacefully.

The Kenyan election is not just a test for democracy in that country; it is also a test of democracy, unity and the commonality of purpose among all five East African member states.