Obama Weighs In on Kenyan Election, Urging Calm

The campaign that ends on Tuesday has produced little evidence that Kenya has heeded his advice. In recent days, the campaign has been marked by a break-in at the vice president’s country estate, the killing and apparent torture of a senior election official, and reports of plans to rig the vote for President Uhuru Kenyatta and stage an armed raid on one of the opposition’s tallying centers. Talk of “fake news” has flavored the campaign debate as international observers, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, seek to ensure a fair vote.


Waiting at a bus station in Kisumu, Kenya, on Sunday. Many people are leaving Kisumu and traveling home to their villages around the area for voting, with some fearing that Kisumu will turn violent after the election.

Fredrik Lerneryd/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Obama expressed disappointment in the campaign so far. “In Kenya’s election we have already seen too much incitement and appeals based on fear from all sides,” he 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.”

A violent reaction seems like a real possibility given Kenya’s recent history. After a disputed election in 2007 in which the opposition leader Raila Odinga lost, spasms of violence left at least 1,300 people dead and 600,000 displaced from their homes. In 2013, after Mr. Odinga lost again, this time to Mr. Kenyatta, he claimed he had been robbed of victory.

Mr. Odinga, a former prime minister, is running again, his fourth campaign for the presidency, and he and Mr. Kenyatta were virtually tied in recent polls. In a country riven by tribal rivalries, Mr. Kenyatta, 55, has the support of many Kikuyus and Kalenjins, while Mr. Odinga, 72, is strong among the…

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