Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday sent the clearest signal that he will sit down with his arch-rival Raila Odinga in a bid to unify the country.
He acknowledged that the country is grappling with tribalism, even as he reiterated that participating in an election or not is an individual’s right, which must be respected.
President Kenyatta, who spoke to journalists after casting his vote at Mutomo Primary School in Gatundu South, said he intends to reach out to the opposition leader, who boycotted the repeat presidential election, in a bid to heal the nation and bring it together.
“As a responsible leader, you must reach out, and that is my intention,” Mr. Kenyatta said of the initiative, which he said would take place after the election.
The fresh poll was occasioned by the nullification of President Kenyatta’s August victory by the Supreme Court.
President Kenyatta and Mr. Odinga have in the last few months taken hard stances over the repeat presidential election, which was boycotted by National Super Alliance supporters after a directive from their leaders.
Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Odinga even rejected any attempts to have dialogue over the political stalemate, which has already hurt the country’s economy and threatened to plunge the country into instability.
The Head of State was accompanied by his wife Margaret Kenyatta and his mother, Mama Ngina Kenyatta; Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu; MP Moses Kuria and State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu. He cast his ballot around 11 am.
Mr. Kenyatta, who said he was confident of a win, expressed hope that the outcome of the election would bring to an end the political acrimony that has been witnessed in the last few months.
“It’s my hope and wishes that the country will move forward after this election. I believe that as a country we are tired of this electioneering (and) it’s time we move forward,” he said, adding that he was ready to take up the mantle for his second term if he wins the election.
President Kenyatta was unmoved by the boycott by Nasa and its supporters.
“Those who have the desire to vote should be allowed to vote (and) those who wish not to vote, it is their democratic right, but no right supersedes the other,” he said and assured that security would be maintained.
Regarding incidents of violence experienced in a section of Nasa strongholds targeting Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission officials, Mr. Kenyatta said the government would take action against those involved.
At the same time, Deputy President William Ruto warned against attempts to stop Kenyans from voting.
He said every citizen enjoys the constitutional right to elect their leaders or boycott the poll.
Speaking after casting his vote at the Kosachei Primary School polling station in Turbo constituency, Uasin Gishu County, Mr. Ruto cautioned against violence, saying it was the democratic right of every Kenyan to either participate in the election or boycott it.
“As a country, we are governed by the Constitution and it is the democratic right of any voter to either vote or not,” he said while exuding confidence that the Jubilee Party will form the next government.
The DP, who is seeking another five years in power alongside President Kenyatta, said they expected Thursday’s polls to confirm their victory in August.
Elsewhere, Third Way Alliance presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot warned Mr. Odinga against intimidating Kenyans by staging protests.
Speaking after casting his vote at Kapedo Primary School in Turkana East, Dr. Aukot said if Mr. Odinga wanted his plight to be addressed, he should have taken part in the repeat election.
“It is unfortunate for Mr. Odinga to intimidate people through protests and violence.
“He was complaining that the previous polls were a sham. He should have proved to us that he won by participating in the repeat election,” Dr Aukot said.
Meanwhile, independent presidential candidate Joseph Nyagah described the repeat poll as a “sad day”.
He raised concern over failure by opposition supporters to participate in the election, adding that this had left the country more divided.
Speaking after voting at J.N. Mwonge Primary School in Mbeere South constituency, Mr Nyagah called for dialogue between the main protagonists, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
In Rongai, former President Daniel arap Moi and his three sons voted at the Kabarak University polling station.
He cast his ballot at 1.30pm. The constituency is in Nakuru County and is represented by one of his sons, Mr Raymond Moi.
“I urge Kenyans to be peaceful in order to prosper as a country. Peace is paramount for any development to take place,” the former president said.
Meanwhile, former President Mwai Kibaki cast his vote while accompanied by former MP Mary Wambui at Munaini Primary School polling station in Othaya town, Nyeri.
Mr Kibaki, 86, braved the chilly weather and rainfall pounding Nyeri to participate in the controversial repeat poll.