By Nicolas Revise *
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday urged Kenyans to work together to ensure “transparent” elections next year and avoid a repeat of the deadly post-poll violence four years ago.
“We urge that the nation come together and prepare for elections that will be a real model for the entire world,” the top US diplomat said after talks with President Mwai Kibaki in Nairobi on the latest leg of her Africa tour.
Kenya plunged into violence after the December 2007 election in which Prime Minister Raila Odinga — then opposition chief — 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, who in turn launched reprisal attacks in the country’s worst violence since independence in 1963.
Kenya, East Africa’s economic powerhouse, is due in March to hold its first general elections since the violence.
“The US has pledged to assist the government of Kenya to ensure that the upcoming elections are free, fair and transparent,” Clinton added, speaking ahead of talks with Odinga, a key candidate in the race for the presidency.
Kibaki will not contest the next election.
Two presidential hopefuls, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former minister William Ruto, face trial in April in the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity over the post-election killings, charges they deny.
They face charges including orchestrating murder, rape and persecution in the aftermath of the poll.
Clinton later met with Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who along with his transitional government wraps up later this month after an eight-year interim period marred by infighting, minimal political progress and rampant corruption.
She said she was “very encouraged by the progress” in the fragile political process to elect a new government in Somalia before an August 20 deadline.
Clinton also met with other members of Somalia’s notoriously fractious political elite, including parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, one of dozens of candidates challenging Sharif for the job of president.
Ravaged by repeated droughts and over two decades of conflict, Somalia is torn between rival clans, Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents and the Western-backed government, which is propped up by a 17,000-strong African Union force.
Kenya, which invaded Somalia last year before joining the AU force, is a key US ally and closely linked to Washington’s efforts to quash Islamist movements in the volatile Horn of Africa region.
Late Friday one person was killed in a grenade attack in a Nairobi suburb, the latest in a string of blasts in Kenya since its troops invaded southern Somalia to crush extremist insurgent bases there.
Clinton, who visited neighbouring Uganda and South Sudan on Friday, is to travel to Malawi on Sunday.
On Friday she called for a “compromise” deal between rivals in Juba and Khartoum to resume oil production, stalled in a bitter dispute that brought the newly separated rivals to the brink of all-out war earlier this year.
Hours later, in the early hours of Saturday, African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki said that the “parties have agreed on all of the financial arrangements regarding oil.”