Kenya is bracing itself for a presidential vote on March 4 that is a tight two-way contest between bitter rivals.
One of the top contenders is outgoing Prime Minister Raila Odinga, 68, who narrowly lost out in the last presidential vote in 2007. That election sparked violence, which claimed more than 1,200 lives.
Odinga is reportedly neck-and-neck in the polls with outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, 51 – the son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first President (1964-78).
Uhuru Kenyatta has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague for inciting violence after the last election, which he refutes. The incident galvanised support for him amongst many Kenyans, who see the ICC charges as foreign meddling in domestic matters.
Political Analyst Tom Maliti believes the vote is crucial for how Kenya is viewed internationally:
“The outcome of the Kenyan election is important for the international community because Kenya is a regional hub, both economic and diplomatic regional hub, for the region, and if Kenya is stable then it means they can continue to do business to further relations with Kenya,” Maliti says.
Outgoing President Mwai Kibaki’s 2007 win led to weeks of violent unrest – damaging Kenya’s economy and shattering its reputation as one of Africa’s most stable democracies.