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October 11, 2012

Annan Praises Kenya Reforms Ahead of Election

by Gabe Joselow

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrapped up his four-day trip Thursday to Kenya with a call for the country’s institutions to ensure free and fair elections next year. Annan also urged Kenya to assist the International Criminal Court in its case against two top presidential contenders.

Annan traveled to Kenya this week to assess the country’s preparations for next year’s election.

He and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa are representing the African Union Panel of Eminent African Personalities in Kenya. The two dignitaries met with key stakeholders in the election process, including Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Kenya's chief justice and members of the electoral board.

Lauding progress

Speaking to reporters in Nairobi on Thursday, Annan was positive about Kenya’s progress, particularly judicial reforms establishing a mechanism for settling electoral disputes and implementation of a new constitution.

He called this “one of the most important times" in Kenya's recent history.

“Let us not forget the significant journey Kenya has traveled in the last five years. Through its new constitution, Kenya has a clear and agreed framework for a peaceful and prosperous future,” said Annan.

The new election, scheduled for March 4, will bring an end to the coalition government that Annan had helped to establish to resolve the leadership battle after the disputed election in 2007.

Aiding ICC proceedings

More than 1,000 people were killed and 600,000 were displaced by post-election violence the last time around, after results of the contest between Odinga and current President Mwai Kibaki were called into question.

The International Criminal Court has indicted four Kenyans for crimes related to the violence, including two top presidential contenders - Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and parliamentary member William Ruto.

Annan said the ICC issue was brought up in every one of his meetings. He urged Kenyans to cooperate with the proceedings.

"With respect to these cases, there is only one way ahead. These cases are against individuals and not against any tribe or group. Justice must be done, and Kenya is obliged to assist the court in accordance with the Rome Statute,” said Annan.

The ICC trial has loomed over next year’s vote, raising a question about whether the politicians on trial can still serve in office if found guilty.

Annan and Mkapa declined to comment on that aspect of the case.