'Make Africa proud,' Mbeki, Mahama tell Kenyans as voting begins

Former President Thabo Mbeki (Netwerk24)
Former President Thabo Mbeki (Netwerk24)

Nairobi - Two former presidents in charge of observer missions in the Kenyan elections have urged the country to make the continent proud by having successful elections.

Former president Thabo Mbeki, who heads the African Union Elections Observer mission, said at a press conference on Monday afternoon he was so confident that Kenya’s elections would go well, that neither he nor former Ghanain president John Mahama, who heads the Commonwealth’s mission, would be getting on planes on August 9, the day after tomorrow’s elections.

“We are going to be around for a few days,” he said, also to deal with any issues that might arise.

There are some fears that, once results are announced, Kenya might erupt into post-election violence as had happened a decade ago.

Mbeki expressed confidence that things were in place for the elections to go well.

“We are very pleased that the contestants in the elections have recognised that the success of the Kenyan elections is of great importance to Africa as a whole and have therefore promised not to disappoint the expectations of the peoples of our continent,” he said.

'Received like a celebrity'

Mbeki arrived in the country on Thursday evening and had spent the weekend meeting the observers in his mission as well as candidates from the various parties, the judiciary and electoral officials.

He was received like a celebrity when he attended rallies by President Uhuru Kenyatta, from the Jubilee Party, and his challenger Raila Odinga, who heads the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa).

Mbeki appealed to Kenyan security agencies to keep the peace during and after the elections, working with the country’s electoral body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Asked about the alleged police raid on a Nasa tallying centre on Friday night, Mbeki said the mission didn’t have the powers to investigate but had raised the issue with Kenya’s interior minister Fred Matiang’i.

“He stands ready to meet directly with the Nasa people,” Mbeki said.

Mbeki added that mechanisms were in place to address concerns. “There wouldn’t be any need for any of the parties in this process to take any extraordinary steps,” he said.

He also expressed faith in the judiciary to be the final arbiter, should problems arise.

Credible elections 

Mahama said Kenyans should not allow themselves to be used to wreak violence on others. “Candidates come and go, but Kenya remains,” he said.

Mahama also said those who were defeated should be gracious, while the winners should be magnanimous.

Mahama said: “We appeal to everyone involved in the election process to respect the laws of the land and the Constitution, and to do Kenya, Africa and the Commonwealth proud by conducting a credible election that meets the standards to which the country has subscribed to.”

Matiang’i, in a press conference shortly after, said the police were better trained than in the past and were at polling stations to keep people safe. He assured voters that officers were not “over-deployed”, but were allocated to polling stations according to where they were needed.

He said: “Everyone keeps referring to [the post-elections violence in] 2007. That was 10 years ago. We have come a long way,” he said.

Campaigning in the elections came to an end at Saturday midnight, and many people have left their homes in Nairobi for their rural homes – some because they registered outside the capital, and others because they fear violence.
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