Obama Issues Rare Statement Ahead of Kenya Vote

Former president asks leaders to 'reject violence and incitement'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2017 10:00 AM CDT
Obama Calls for Calm as Kenya Votes
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, second left, prepares to cast his vote in Nairobi on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Barack Obama has mostly steered clear of politics—at least publicly—since leaving office. There was an alteration Monday, however, on the eve of an election in Kenya. The former president, whose father was born in the country, urged Kenyans to "work for an election—and aftermath—that is peaceful and credible, reinforcing confidence in your new Constitution and the future of your country," per the New York Times. The Guardian explains why such words are needed, citing "hundreds of violent incidents"—including the torture and murder of a senior polling official—during a campaign that has pitted President Uhuru Kenyatta against former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Odinga lost in two previous runs in 2013 and 2007.

Violence following Odinga's challenge of the result a decade ago resulted in at least 1,300 deaths and 600,000 people displaced from their homes, per the Times. Polls showed Odinga, 72, neck and neck with Kenyatta, 55, before Kenyans waited for hours to vote on Tuesday, with lines between tribal groups clearly drawn. Some 180,000 police and security officers have been deployed across Kenya in case of violence. But "I urge Kenyan leaders to reject violence and incitement; respect the will of the people; urge security forces to act professionally and neutrally; and work together no matter the outcome," says Obama. Kenyatta has said he will accept the result either way, reports the BBC, which notes it could be days before a winner is declared. (More Kenya stories.)

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