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Leaders must pitch for a peaceful poll

The anxiety that has engulfed the country in the countdown to the elections that are 11 days away is unhealthy.

It’s evident that the country is slowing down due to uncertainty over election outcomes.

Businesses are holding back, tourism is slackening, while foreign missions and international organisations based in Nairobi are moving staff to other destinations.

Worse, some foreign embassies have sent out travel advisories to their nationals against visiting Kenya. These are bad indicators.

Unfortunately, this is the price we have to pay because of the way we play politics.

ELECTORAL CONTESTS

Electoral contests have been turned into a life-and-death matter; a cut-throat competition bereft of civility.

Although the main political contestants have pledged to conduct their campaigns peacefully and to accept the results, the reality is that tension is mounting.

For one, the government has delineated some counties and characterised them as hotspots.

There could be evidence for that, but such characterisations create more tension.

Two, foreign observers such as the European Union mission have warned that the country is sitting on a precipice and is likely to explode into violence unless the electoral process is handled properly.

We have developed a worrying reputation for election violence.

VIOLENCE

But this is based on experience. Out of the five elections held since the introduction of multiparty in 1992, three have been characterised by violence, the worst being in 2007.

Yet elections need not be such life-threatening events. Elections come and go, but the country and the people remain.

The tragedy is that a country that has a cycle of violence tied to elections ceases to be competitive.

All social and economic plans are aligned to electoral cycles and that compromises stable and predictable growth.

We have a few days to the elections and the main presidential candidates — Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Nasa’s Raila Odinga — must help cool down temperatures.

They must advocate peace and convince their followers to avoid violence. The country should not be held hostage every five years because of election violence.

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