|"An artist known as solo7 paints a peace message on the tarmac in the Kibera slum in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi March 9, 2013." (Karel Prinsloo/Reuters)|
By Hezron Ochiel and Drazen Jorgic
Reuters dispatch, March 10, 2013
"Strongholds of defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga were peaceful on Sunday, apparently reflecting a desire by Kenyans to avoid a repeat of the bloodshed that followed the last election five years ago. Odinga has refused to concede the election to rival Uhuru Kenyatta, but said he would challenge the result in the courts and urged his supporters to refrain from the violence that convulsed Kenya when he lost the disputed vote of 2007. A smooth handover of power this time around is seen as critical to restoring Kenya's reputation as a stable democracy and safe investment destination -- an image that was shattered by the mayhem that followed the last election. In Kisumu, the biggest city in Odinga's tribal heartland, business owners on Sunday made plans for a full resumption of trading after many had run down their stocks in the run-up to the vote because of fears of unrest and looting. 'Look, I'm preparing a budget to order more stock tomorrow. There is calm and no more fear of losing property,' hardware store owner Linus Omog told Reuters. Nestled on the shores of Lake Victoria in the west of Kenya, Kisumu was a flashpoint in the post-election violence five years ago that left more than 1,200 people dead, hundreds of thousands uprooted from their homes and properties destroyed. From Lake Victoria's lush banks to Kenya's Indian Ocean coastline, Kenyans from across the political divide said lessons had been learned in a country where political support tends to derive from ethnic identity rather than ideology.
'The Kenyan people have grown up and realized that politics is just politics,' said IT worker Timothy Kamau in the port city of Mombasa. 'We just want to get on with things.' Kenyatta avoided a run-off vote by a razor-thin margin, just edging above the 50 percent-mark, meaning he won outright. The tiny margin was enough to raise concerns that Odinga supporters could take to the streets, even though Kenyatta was more than 800,000 votes ahead of his rival. Western nations now face a diplomatic dilemma about how to deal with a president who is indicted for crimes against humanity, but will be relieved by a calm vote in a nation they view as vital to regional stability and an ally in the fight against militant Islam in the Horn of Africa. [...]"