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Kenyan Presidential Campaign Marred by Legacy of Violent 2007 Election

As Kenyan voters prepare to elect their new president, the shadow of the country’s last presidential election continues to loom over the current campaign. The 2007 vote ended in widespread racial violence, with more than 1,000 people killed and hundreds of thousands more displaced in the months following the polls. With the 2013 polls less than a week away, the focus of the candidates and international onlookers has been the preservation of safety in the country.

kenyanelectionEight candidates participated in the country’s second-ever presidential debate Monday, the first having taken place earlier in the month.

Crowds gathered for the event at the Brookhouse International School in Nairobi, but little could be discerned from the event, according to a report from The Guardian. The news source reported that with such a large field of presidential hopefuls, none of the candidates were able to strongly assert their viewpoints in the very restricted time slots. Furthermore, most of the candidates chose to deflect potentially damning questions, including those regarding their political pasts.

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta is one of the candidates in the running for the March 4 election, even as he faces charges by the International Criminal Court for his involvement in the violence surrounding 2007 election.

He is accused of committing crimes against humanity for leading the country’s Kikuyu people into racial conflict. Despite the pending trial, Kenyatta is recognized as one of the favorites going into the polls.

“Intimidation, electoral violence and ethnic rivalry have the potential to undermine and jeopardize the whole process,” former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a statement. “And that is why recent violent events and increasing tensions in the run-up to the elections are deeply worrying. Kenya cannot risk a return to those dark days.”

No candidate is currently considered strong enough to break the required 50 percent barrier with voters.

Kenyatta and three other Kenyans charged by the ICC were scheduled to begin trial in April, but issues with the prosecution’s case could push back the proceedings until the summer. Also facing charges are Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, broadcaster Joshua Arap, and former Education Minister William Ruto, who is now Kenyatta’s running mate.

Prosecutors discovered that a key witness in the case lied in court-presented statements, leaving them to open to the defense’s request for a trial delay. ICC judges have not decided whether or not to approve the delays. All four men remain free in Kenya while awaiting trial.

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