President Obama Message to the People of Kenya, February 5, 2013.
President Obama Message to the People of Kenya, February 5, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama is urging Kenyans to reject violence and hold peaceful, fair elections next month.

In a video released by the White House Tuesday, President Obama congratulated Kenyans for reforming their government and passing a new constitution since deadly post-election violence five years ago.

He said Kenya now "must take the next step" and allow a free and fair vote in the March 4 elections.

Obama said the United States does not endorse any candidate for office, but does support an election "that is peaceful and reflects the will of the people."

Kenya goes to the polls next month to elect a new president, parliament, and hundreds of other offices.  The last election in late 2007 triggered a wave of riots and ethnic violence in which about 1,100 people were killed and more than 300,000 displaced from their homes.

President Obama said the elections give Kenyans the chance to show they are "not just a member of a tribe or an ethnic group but citizens of a great and proud nation."

In the video, Obama noted his Kenyan heritage -- his father came from the village of Alego -- and his visits to Kenya, made before he was president.

Analysts have warned the coming elections could cause turmoil in Kenya.  One of the leading presidential candidates, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his running mate William Ruto, face trial at the International Criminal Court on charges they helped to organize the post-violence five years ago.

Also, tribal violence in Kenya's Tana River region has killed more than 140 people since August.