NAIROBI, Aug 4 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Kenya on Saturday to hold free and fair elections and be a role model for Africa, underlining the need to avoid the bloodshed and economic loss suffered during the last vote five years ago.

The general election next March will be the first since a disputed poll in 2007 that set off a politically based ethnic slaughter in which more than 1,200 people were killed.

“We urge that the nation come together and prepare for elections which will be a real model for the entire world,” Clinton told reporters in Nairobi.

She met President Mwai Kibaki, who is barred by law from seeking a third term, and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who leads in opinion polls in the race to replace him.

The two were the main rivals in the disputed presidential poll, when then opposition leader Odinga accused Kibaki of stealing the vote.

Gangs faced off with machetes and clubs, and security forces opened fire on the streets, until mediator Kofi Annan brokered a power-sharing pact between Kibaki and Odinga that ended the violence and made Odinga prime minister.

Before meeting with members of Kenya’s election commission, Clinton told reporters that in her talks with Kibaki she had stressed “the importance of the importance of a credible, transparent, free and fair election process.”

Clinton warned of the cost of another botched election, urging the government and civil society to work together.

“On the other hand the unrest that can result from a disputed election has a terrible cost both in lives lost and in economic impact,” she said. Read more…