Kenya’s Kibaki vows smooth power handover
NAIROBI — Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, whose disputed re-election five years ago sparked bloody ethnic violence, vowed Tuesday to ensure an orderly handover of power when he steps down next year.
The first general elections since the deadly post-poll violence is due to be held on March 4, 2013, a poll in which Kibaki will not stand.
“I assure Kenyans of a smooth transition to the next leadership that they will elect in the forthcoming general election,” Kibaki said in an address to the nation.
“Political competition must be guided by the fact that the interests of our nation are more important than that of an individual or party interests – Kenya must observe the rule of law before, during, and after the elections,” he said.
Kenya plunged into violence after the December 27, 2007, general elections in which Raila Odinga — then opposition chief, now prime minister — accused Kibaki as the incumbent president of having rigged his re-election.
What began as political riots soon turned into ethnic killings targeting members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe.
They launched reprisal attacks in which homes were torched and people hacked to death in the country’s worst violence since independence in 1963.
“The government has put in place the necesary institutions and measures to regulate free, fair and credible elections. Any hindrances and obstactes of whatever nature will be dealt with decisively and promptly,” Kibaki added.
Two presidential hopefuls, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former minister William Ruto, face trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity over the post-election killings; charges they deny.
They face charges that include orchestrating murder, rape and persecution in the aftermath of the poll, which was described as “one of the most violent periods in Kenya’s history.” A trial date has not been set.
Kibaki noted the “concerns the upcoming ICC cases have caused” but said the trials “must not be politicised.”
“The Kenyans facing trial also deserve a fair and legal hearing… In the meantime I call on Kenyans to remain calm even as we pursue the option of having a local mechanism of dealing with international crimes.”