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Handicapping the Kenyan Election

The Best—and Worst-Case Scenarios

A woman walks past a campaign poster for Ralia Odinga. (Siegfried Modola / Courtesy Reuters)

As Kenyans go to the polls, observers are bracing for a replay of the country’s horrific 2007 presidential elections, which produced a wave of ethnic violence that killed more than a thousand people and displaced over a half a million. The violence was even more traumatic given that at first things had seemed to be going well. Kenyans had voted peacefully and in great numbers. When it became clear that the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki was losing, however, he rigged the count and declared himself president. Public frustration awakened long-standing latent ethnic tensions. The conflict, which lasted a week, eventually ground East Africa to a halt; it is thought to have cost the Kenyan economy more than a billion dollars. Most of those who spearheaded and perpetrated such violence have yet to be held to account.   

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