US and UK assure Kenya they have no preferred candidate
The world’s only super power and Kenya’s trading partners stressed their neutrality ahead of the historic elections and allayed fears of endorsing any of the eight presidential candidates.
They also assured that the outcome of the presidential vote will not affect their trade ties with Kenya and sanctions would not be imposed no matter who becomes president.
US President Barack Obama, in a message to Kenyans, said the US does not endorse any candidate for office, but is only interested in credible and peaceful elections.
“The choice of who will lead Kenya is up to the Kenyan people. The United States does not endorse any candidate for office. But we support an election that is peaceful and reflects the will of the people,” he said in a statement the White House released on Tuesday.
And in Nairobi, the British High Commissioner to Kenya Christian Turner said the UK is impartial in the presidential election, adding its interest “is not about who wins but how”.
“This is a Kenyan choice. This election is for the Kenyan people to decide and not anyone else and, therefore, the UK is impartial, we are nonpartisan,” Dr Turner said. “It is not my job to back anyone’s candidature over another.”
The envoy spoke during a visit to The Standard Group headquarters along Mombasa Road, where the CEO Sam Shollei received him.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission last week cleared eight presidential candidates for the first elections under the new Constitution.
Coalition for Democracy and Reforms presidential candidate Raila Odinga, and Jubilee Alliance flag bearer Uhuru Kenyatta are in the race to succeed President Kibaki.
Others contesting the presidency are Amani Coalition’s Musalia Mudavadi, Peter Kenneth (Kenya National Congress), Martha Karua (Narc-Kenya), James ole Kiyiapi (Restore and Build Kenya), Paul Muite (Safina), and Mohammed Abduba Dida (Alliance for Real Change).
On Tuesday, President Obama recalled the turmoil of five years ago after the disputed 2007 presidential vote and noted progress in rebuilding communities, reforming institutions, and passage of a new Constitution. He said Kenya “must take the next step in March” to consolidate these gains.
“We all know what makes for successful elections. Kenya must reject intimidation and violence, and allow a free and fair vote,” Obama said.
He added: “Kenyans must resolve disputes in the courts, not in the streets. Above all, the people of Kenya must come together, before and after elections, to carry on the work of building your country.”
Dr Turner said the historic elections were no longer “a winner-takes-it-all” affair and all political players must commit to peace.
“This is a great opportunity to realise the dream and the ambition of the Kenyan Constitution. This is no longer a winner-takes-it-all election, there are six votes in the ballot papers and I think it is remarkable moment to realise that ambition,” he Turner said.
The diplomat asked candidates to commit to accept defeat in fair elections and refer disputes to the courts.
He added: “The British Government and people stand by Kenyans as long partners and friends in supporting you for in the March 4 General Election.”
President Obama, the son of a Kenyan economist, sought to connect with his homeland as he opened the statement with a Kiswahili salutation and ended with the same through the statement re-issued by the local US embassy.
President Obama challenged Kenyans to rise above their ethnic groupings and stand together as Kenyans to build a nation befitting its status.
“This is a moment for the people of Kenya to come together, instead of tearing apart. If you do, you can show the world that you are not just a member of a tribe or ethnic group, but citizens of a great and proud nation,” he said.
“I can’t imagine a better way to mark the 50th anniversary of Kenya’s independence. And I say to all of you who are willing to walk this path of progress – you will continue to have a strong friend and partner in the United States of America,” said President Obama, who was sworn-in for a second term in office, a fortnight ago.
He hailed Kenyans spirit and hard work, saying communities must stand by these virtues to fast track their development agenda.
“Kenya has lifted people from poverty, built an emerging democracy and civil society, and sustained a spirit of hope in the face of great difficulty. After the turmoil of five years ago, you’ve worked to rebuild communities, reform institutions and pass a new constitution,” he said.
He signed off saying: “If you take that step, and reject a path of violence and division, Kenya can move forward towards prosperity and opportunity that unleashes the extraordinary talents of your people – especially young people. If you continue to move forward, you can build a just Kenya that rejects corruption, and respects the rights and dignity of all Kenyans”.
Meanwhile, last evening, Uhuru and Ruto welcomed President Obama’s statement stating the United State’s neutrality in the presidential elections.
Addressing a press conference at a Nairobi hotel, they urged other western nations to express similar positions.
“We hope that everybody will respect the will of the people so that we move on with the good relations that we have had,” Uhuru said.
Ruto sought to dispel fears of sanctions against their leadership saying: “It would be a form of dictatorship for anyone to take offence if Kenyans make their decision.”