UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Kenyans must redeem themselves after the deadly violence that followed the 2007 presidential election and ensure that next year's vote for a new leader is fair and peaceful, the country's deputy prime minister said.
Musalia Mudavadi, who is a candidate for president, said in an interview on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly's ministerial session that "the expectations are that this time around the elections will be peaceful".
He cited changes since the 2007 vote including an independent director of public prosecutions, a new judicial process, and faster responses by security personnel.
Kenya was wracked by tribal strife and other attacks after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of a flawed election. More than 1,000 people died before former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan brokered a deal that ended the violence. It saw Kibaki retain the presidency and his top rival, Raila Odinga, fill the newly created position of prime minister — a coalition that has held together.
"We all bear some sense of national guilt that our politics in the country degenerated to what we saw in 2007," Mudavadi said.
"My expectations are that we need to prove a point to the international community and to ourselves — that never again shall we butcher each other because of politics," he said.
Mudavadi said recent clashes between farmers and herders in south-eastern Kenya that killed nearly 40 people were unfortunate, but were quelled after the government sent in security personnel.
"The effectiveness or speed at which the security forces were able to intervene and put it down has sent a very strong message that we will not tolerate such incidents before, during and after the election," he said.
He said some of the politicians who are under investigation for political incitement related to the clashes "can be facing charges very soon for the incidents that happened".
Mudavadi, one of about 10 candidates for president, was a deputy to Odinga but left the prime minister's party because he was barred from running for president by party rules.
He is now the presidential hopeful for the United Democratic Forum party and among his opponents in the March election are Odinga and two politicians who have been charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court for the 2007 violence — Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former Education Minister William Ruto.
Mudavadi said his party has signed up members "from across the entire Kenyan divide", and when he leaves New York he will fly to London to launch a chapter for the Kenyan diaspora.
"I stand out as a non-polarising personality," he said, explaining that he won't be promoting tribalism but will seek to unite all Kenyans and ensure reconciliation and healing in the country.
Mudavadi said his party hopes that "we can actually have a national platform when it comes to addressing Kenyan issues".
An article several months ago in Jamhuri Magazine, which seeks to link Kenyans in the diaspora with the country, said the next president was likely to be Kenyatta, Mudavadi or Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka.
"I'm confident that I'm a very, very serious contender and I hope to win in March next year," Mudavadi said.