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Supporters of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga take part in a rally at Nairobi’s Nyayo Stadium yesterday.
NAIROBI: Kenyan presidential hopefuls made a final bid to woo voters yesterday on the last day of campaigning for the tightly fought elections tomorrow, the first since deadly post-poll unrest five years ago.
Tens of thousands of cheering supporters dancing to music gathered in central Nairobi for giant rallies of the top two frontrunners, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his neck-and-neck rival Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.
Loyalists of Kenyatta — who with his running mate faces a crimes against humanity trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for violence after the 2007 polls — dressed in his party’s red colours in the sprawling Uhuru park, meaning, like his first name, “freedom” in Swahili.
Backers of Odinga — who in 2007 narrowly lost the contested presidential polls in which over 1,100 people were killed and more than 600,000 forced from their homes — packed the national sports stadium.
Both Kenyatta and Odinga said they were confident of a winning an absolute majority, necessary to avoid a second-round run off.
“I want to promise you that we will change Kenya for the better,” said Kenyatta, who danced on stage alongside his fellow ICC-indicted deputy William Ruto.
“Bring even the sick to vote,” Odinga urged, after releasing a white dove to symbolise peace, adding that the elections were the most important since Kenya’s independence from British colonial rule 50 years ago.
While scuffles broke out at Odinga’s rally between security and reported opposition supporters, the gatherings were overwhelmingly peaceful.
Campaigning has been intense, with outgoing President Mwai Kibaki, stepping down after two terms in power, making a “passionate plea for all of us to vote peacefully” in a message broadcast on Friday.
In one of the most complex polls Kenya has ever held, voters tomorrow will cast six ballots for the president, parliament, governors, senators, councillors and a special women’s list.
Some 23,000 observers, including 2,600 international monitors, will be deployed, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman, Ahmed Issack Hassan.