Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.(REUTERS)
Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan says he is "deeply concerned" by recent bouts of ethnic violence in Kenya, as the East African economic powerhouse prepares for elections early next year.
Annan was speaking while on a four-day visit to Nairobi. He is part of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation panel which brought peace to the nation after elections in December 2007 led to the deaths of more than 1 000 people in a wave of ethnic clashes. "The panel is deeply concerned by an increase in tensions and violence in the run-up to the elections," said Annan, who most recently led failed UN and Arab League efforts to bring peace to Syria.
"The violence in northern Kenya, the Tana River delta and the coast region are a cause of great concern," the visiting diplomat said, referring to the deaths of more than 100 people this year.
"Reports of militia groups reorganizing or being created are equally worrying."
He urged religious leaders to avoid stirring up tensions and called on local politicians to avoid using ethnically-based hate speech to voters, while calling for reforms of the police service.
A recent Gallup opinion poll revealed that 23% of Kenyan adults expected a fresh wave of violence around the time of the vote, set to take place on March 4.
Annan also said Kenya must cooperate with the prosecutions at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, where two Kenyan presidential aspirants, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, face trials for orchestrating the 2007-08 bloodshed.
The trials are set for March, just days after the first-round presidential ballot.