Kenyans have the world’s support and goodwill

Saturday March 2 2013

As Kenyans prepare to cast their votes in the March 4 General Election, the whole world has converged on the country to rally around a peaceful and credible process.

The election will mark a major turning point for a country that was almost destroyed by bloody post-election violence following a disputed poll in 2007, with major ripple effects on neighbouring countries who depend on it for passage of goods to and from the port of Mombasa.

This time around, the region, and indeed the world, are hoping that Kenya will slay the post-election violence dragon and prove that it has matured democratically.

The flow of support and goodwill into the country has been overwhelming: From monetary contributions to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission that is conducting the elections, from donor countries through various funding baskets and non-state actors, to technical assistance and goodwill messages from world leaders, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US President Barack Obama.

In addition, more world and regional bodies have sent observer missions to Kenya than to any other country in the region.

The EAC, the Inter-Government Authority for Development (Igad) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) have a combined observer mission of 78 people.

Other observers are the Commonwealth observer group led by former Botswana president Festus Mogae and the African Union Mission led by former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano, and the Carter Centre.

Credible and peaceful polls in Kenya will send a strong message to the entire region and the continent that African elections are not about butchering each other and winning at all costs.

Kenya is crucial to peace and stability in neighbouring Somalia and South Sudan and has to live by example if it is to remain the economic and diplomatic giant in the region.

So far, the campaign period is ending on an encouraging note: Both the candidates and their supporters have conducted themselves maturely and there have been only a few ugly incidents reported.

By sharing a platform and articulating their policies during two national presidential debates, the eight candidates in the race for presidency demonstrated to their supporters that a political contest should not amount to enmity and hostility, but merely different ideologies and values.

All eight have also pledged to uphold peace and to respect the outcome of the election or seek legal redress if aggrieved. With a reformed judiciary that now enjoys the confidence of most Kenyans, this indeed is the way to go.

This election is also important for Kenya because it is the first to be held under a new Constitution that promises more equitable distribution of resources under a devolved structure.

Yes, this General Election is make or break for Kenya. Kenyans and their leaders must decide which way they want to go.