US calls for free, fair and peaceful elections in Kenya

US Chargé d’Affaires Kenya Eric Kneedler

By Business Daily Africa

The United States (US) on Thursday called on Kenya to ensure that the August 9 general election is free, fair and peaceful.

Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Eric W. Kneedler at the US Embassy urged for the preservation of democracy and inclusion during and after the polls.

“As a long-standing friend of the Kenyan people, the United States is committed to walking with Kenya on its democratic journey. The next phase of this journey begins with free, fair, and peaceful elections,” said Mr Kneedler. He added that the US does not have a preferred candidate in the upcoming presidential polls.

Deputy President William Ruto and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga are the leading hopefuls to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta who will leave the office at the end of constitutional two terms.

Dr Ruto is running on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party ticket.

“The United States does not have preferred candidates or take sides, but we do have an abiding interest in supporting the democratic process and the constitutional right of all eligible Kenyans to vote,” said Mr Kneedler.

“Regardless of what Kenyan voters decide on August 9, the United States looks forward to finding ways to deepen our strategic partnership with the Kenyan people across the board, including our economic relationship for the mutual benefit of both countries.”

Mr Kenyatta has embarked on an aggressive campaign for Mr Odinga, a veteran opposition figure against his renegade deputy.

Washington, which considers Nairobi as central to its regional foreign policy interests, has in the recent past expressed concerns that Kenya’s pivotal role as a regional peace broker could be compromised by domestic distractions related to elections.

Kenya, a strategic ally of the US in the Horn of Africa, faces a test of stability in the hotly contested General Election at a time it has emerged as a player in brokering peace in conflicts in Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Top US spy agencies recently expressed concerns over the political uncertainty around the August 9 General Election in Kenya, warning that any disruptions in East Africa’s largest economy will not be healthy for regional stability.

“East Africa probably will see new bouts of conflict in the coming year as the region becomes increasingly strained by the civil war in Ethiopia, power struggles within the transitional government in Sudan, continued instability in Somalia, and a potentially contentious election in Kenya,” top US spy agencies said in a declassified 31-page document.

While there has not been major election-related violence in the current campaigns, the events of the 2007/8 violence continue to haunt the country.