Fears of Kenya election violence linger

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iol news pic Raila Odinga

AP

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga addresses foreign journalists in Nairobi, Kenya.

Nairobi - Nearly a quarter of Kenyans expect a presidential vote in March to be marred by post-election violence, an opinion poll showed on Friday, raising fears of a repeat of unrest in 2007/8 when more than 1 200 people were killed after a disputed ballot.

Kenya's March 4 poll will be closely watched and any serious violence is likely to be viewed dimly by the United States which has urged Kenya to hold free and fair elections and to be a role model for Africa.

However, a Gallup opinion poll released on Friday suggested fears of unrest linger. The survey - conducted between July and August - showed that 23 percent of Kenyans aged 18 or older (and who are therefore eligible to vote) expect election violence to recur.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga leads the race to replace retiring President Mwai Kibaki, the same poll showed.

The prime minister and Kibaki were the main rivals in a disputed 2007 presidential poll, when then opposition leader Odinga accused Kibaki of stealing the vote.

Not all Kenyans are so gloomy about the prospects for next year's election though.

The same survey showed that many are hopeful that the vote will be better organised than the 2007 election with 73 percent of those surveyed saying they thought police would ensure public safety during the vote.

Sixty seven percent also said they had confidence in the judicial system, a potentially significant statistic since Kenyan authorities believe the 2007/8 poll violence might have been avoided if people had had more faith in their legal system's ability to settle disputes.

Most Kenyans were confident the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which replaced the previous electoral commission blamed for botching the 2007 vote, would manage the polls effectively.

Pollsters interviewed 2 400 Kenyans across the country face-to-face.

Two prominent presidential hopefuls, former cabinet ministers Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, are due to face trial at the International Criminal Court for their alleged role in the post-election violence. - Reuters


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