Mwai Kibaki calls on Kenyans to embrace peace

Kenyans watch as the President of the Republic of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki addresses the nation, Friday, March 1, 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya, ahead of the Monday March 4, 2013 General Election
Image caption Mwai Kibaki told the losers they were still needed by their country

President Mwai Kibaki has called on Kenyans to vote peacefully on Monday and for the losers to accept defeat.

"Cast your vote and keep the peace," he said in an address to the nation.

The previous election led to widespread violence, in which some 1,300 people were killed and 600,000 forced from their homes.

Mr Kibaki is standing down after two terms. Prime Minister Raila Odinga and deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta are seen as the favourites to succeed him.

Mr Kenyatta is accused of orchestrating some of the ethnic violence after the 2007 election and is due to go on trial in The Hague next month for crimes against humanity. He denies the charges.

Some 99,000 police officers are being deployed around the country in order to prevent a repeat of the violence, the AP news agency reports.

Earlier this week, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) released a report detailing cases of violence, hate speech and ethnic intimidation.

In his speech, President Kibaki said: "Let us send a clear message to the world that our democracy has come of age. A peaceful vote is a vote for a secure, prosperous and stable Kenya.

"To those who will not win, your country still needs you. There are many other roles you can play in our development endeavours."

A new constitution has been implemented since the previous election, which is intended to reduce the potential for violence.

Presidential candidates must secure support from across the country in order to be declared the victor, so they cannot just rely on support from their ethnic groups, as has been the case in previous elections.

If no candidate obtains more than 50% of the vote, there will be a run-off on 11 April.

In the previous election, Mr Odinga said he had been cheated of victory by allies of Mr Kibaki. Protests by his supporters turned violent and this spiralled into nationwide tit-for-tat attacks on members of ethnic groups seen as supporting one or other candidate.

This time there are eight presidential candidates.

Elections are also being held for members of parliament, new posts of regional governors and members of county assemblies.

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