Kenyan rivals appeal for peace

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IOL pic feb25 kenya rally

Reuters

Kenya's prime minister and presidential candidate Raila Odinga (right) poses for a photograph with deputy prime minister and presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta as they attend peace prayers at the Uhuru Park grounds in Nairobi on Sunday.

Nairobi - Kenya's top two contenders in the March 4 presidential vote held a joint rally in Nairobi on Sunday to call for a peaceful election and avert a repeat of the deadly post-poll violence that shook the East African nation five years ago.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who claims he was robbed of victory in the December 2007 vote, and Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of independent Kenya's first president, embraced in front of a crowd of thousands.

“(The year) 2007 and the events following it is now behind us,” said Kenyatta.

One of the country's richest men and a leader of Kenya's dominant Kikuyu tribe, Kenyatta chose to run for President Mwai Kibaki's succession despite facing trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The deputy prime minister faces charges of crimes against humanity - including murder, rape and persecution - over the violence that blew up after the contested 2007 election and left around 1 200 dead.

“I, Uhuru Kenyatta, swear before the true God and before all Kenyans that I will promote and preach peace at all times,” he said at Sunday's rally.

Odinga was on the other side of the political divide five years ago but escaped indictment by the ICC, but a minister and a journalist who supported him also face charges of crimes against humanity.

“Let us all embrace peace. We don't need to fight one another at all for whatever reason. We are all Kenyans. Let's choose our leaders peacefully. I urge you all to embrace peace,” he said.

The 2007-2008 violence, which also displaced hundreds of thousands of people, exposed widespread disenchantment with the political class, deep tribal divisions and shattered Kenya's image as a beacon of regional stability.

Odinga and Kenyatta are neck and neck in the polls a week before the election, during which Kenyans will also elect MPs and county governors. - Sapa-AFP


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