Former President Barack Obama on Monday called for unity and peace during what he fears could be potentially violent elections on Tuesday in Kenya, his father's homeland.
"I urge Kenyan leaders to reject violence and incitement; respect the will of the people; urge security forces to act professionally and neutrally; and no matter the outcome," Obama said in a statement on Monday. "I urge all Kenyans to work for an election — and aftermath — that is peaceful and credible, reinforcing confidence in your new constitution and the future of your country."
Incumbent Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is running for a second term as president against opposition leader Raila Odinga as the two primary candidates out of eight running for election on Tuesday. Kenyans will also vote for the governors of 47 counties in Kenya.
In 2007, more than 1,000 people died as the result of violent clashes in the aftermath of the election after Odinga said the election had been rigged. The election in 2012 did not result in major violence, but people are still concerned about potential violence, and Kenyans have fled the capital of Nairobi in anticipation of the election, the BBC reported.
According to the Independent, Kenyan politics is often divided along ethnic lines and areas where these tensions could erupt into violence also concern Kenyans and election monitors.
"In Kenya's election we have already seen too much incitement and appeals based on fear from all sides," Obama said. "But I also know that the Kenyan people as a whole will be the losers if there is a descent into violence. You can make clear that you will reject those that want to deal in tribal and ethnic hatred. As I said two years ago, the voices of ordinary people and civil society can make sure that Kenya will not be defined by divisions of the past, but by the promise of the future. Today, those voices - your voices — are needed more than ever."
Obama added that during his visits to the country where his father grew up, he's witnessed the progress made in the country and hopes to see it live up to its potential.
"This election is one more milestone for Kenya, and I urge President Kenyatta, Mr. Odinga, and all Kenyans to act with respect for the proverb: ‘We have not inherited this land from our forebears, we have borrowed it from our children,'" Obama said. "The choices you make in the coming days can either set Kenya back or bring it together. As a friend of the Kenyan people, I urge you to work for a future defined not by fear and division, but by unity and hope."