Kenya′s presidential candidates hold final pre-election rallies | Africa | DW | 02.03.2013
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Kenya's presidential candidates hold final pre-election rallies

Kenya's leading presidential candidates have held their final campaign rally ahead of Monday's tightly fought election. It will be the first presidential vote since violence in 2007 left over 1,000 people dead.

Thousands of people gathered in central Nairobi on Saturday to hear Kenya's presidential frontrunners offer their final pleas on the last day of campaigning.

Supporters of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta dressed in the party's red colors met in the capital's Uhuru Park.

Across town, Prime Minister Raila Odinga's followers filled the 30,000 seat Nyayo national Stadium.

Polls put both candidates neck and neck two days ahead of the hotly contested vote, prompting fears of a repeat of 2007's election violence.

Odinga, who narrowly lost the contested polls five years ago, was quoted in the Financial Times Saturday, saying his rivals were planning to rig the election. He reportedly warned that the consequences of rigging "may be worse than last time."

His office has contested the contents of the article, saying Odinga felt "absolutely slandered" by claims he had discussed election violence.

Kenyatta, meanwhile, said the comments were "dangerous and inflammatory" and ordered his challenger to retract them.

More than 1,200 people were killed and hundreds of thousands lost their homes five years ago as a result of ethic violence stemming from the contested general election.

War crimes allegations

All candidates in this year's poll have urged supporters to remain calm regardless of the outcome. But watchdogs such as Human Rights Watch have warned that the risk of renewed political violence is "perilously high."

On Friday outgoing President Mwai Kibaki made a "passionate plea for all of us to vote peacefully."

"Let us send a clear message to the world, that our democracy has come of age," Kibaki said in a statement broadcast on national television. He added that in the event of conflict Kenya had "mobilized all its security personnel."

The build up to Monday's election has already been marred with controversy. Kenyatta and his running mate face a trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court for allegedly inciting violence during the 2007 election.

If he wins, the country could see years without a president and vice president while they face trial at the Hague.

ccp/rc (AFP, AP, dpa)