Luo

Esther Bintliff

The last time Kenyans voted in a general election, more than a thousand people died in the ensuing violence and hundreds of thousands were displaced. It’s hardly surprising that emotions are running high ahead of this year’s vote on Monday March 4. The election will also be the country’s first under its new constitution, which was introduced in 2010 with the aim of devolving more power to the regions. Adding to the tension is the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta – one of the two men considered most likely to win this year – has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for crimes against humanity, along with his running mate, for their alleged role in the 2008 violence.

In the FT

  • What happened last time? After trailing in the polls, the incumbent President – Mwai Kibaki, a member of Kenya’s largest tribe, the Kikuyus – was narrowly re-elected in a vote that many international observers said was flawed. He was sworn in on December 30 2007, but supporters of his opponent – Raila Odinga, a member of the Luo tribe – said the election had been rigged. William Wallis recounted how anger grew: “Text messages circulated stating simply: 41 on 1. This was a reference to Mr Kibaki’s Kikuyus, who comprise close to a quarter of the population, and the 41 (or so) other tribes who make up the rest. It was an ominous reminder of the perils of a system that has encouraged Kenya’s leaders, since the British colonial days of divide-and-rule, to abuse tribal allegiance for economic and political gain.”