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Tillerson in Thailand as US ties improve

BANGKOK (REUTERS): Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Thailand on Tuesday in the highest level visit by a US official since a military coup in 2014 soured relations with the United States and brought the ruling junta closer to China.

Tillerson’s visit follows his attendance at a regional security forum in Manila at the weekend.

One of Tillerson’s top priorities has been urging Southeast Asian countries to do more to help cut funding streams for North Korea, with which he has held open the door for dialogue if it halts its recent series of missile tests.

But Thailand’s own politics and human rights record will also be in focus, as Washington strengthens relations with its oldest ally in the region after they were downgraded following the coup.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Busadee Santipitaks highlighted the importance of the visit for Thailand. She told Reuters there were “many issues which we will cover, including the tight relationship and friendship”.

US President Donald Trump has spoken to the leader of Thailand’s military junta, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, and invited him to the White House, but no date has been set yet.

Human rights groups have voiced concern about the reestablishment of normal relations between the United States and Thailand while the junta continues to crack down on critics of the monarchy and the military.

“It would be a practical mistake for Tillerson to not condition positive diplomatic relations on improvements in the protection of human rights,” Matthew Smith, of the Fortify Rights group, told Reuters.

Thailand’s military seized power in May 2014 after months of street protests with a promise to eventually restore democracy, but elections will not happen before next year and a new constitution retains a powerful political say for the army.

Since the coup, Thailand has since aligned itself more closely with Beijing. Thailand this year has approved Chinese submarines, tank and helicopter purchases worth more than $500 million as well as construction of a new rail link.

Another source of friction with the Trump administration is Thailand’s trade surplus over the United States. It was the 11th largest last year at nearly $19 billion, although Thai officials expect a sharp rise in US imports to reduce it.


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Turkey’s Erdogan claims Germany assisting terrorists

ANKARA (REUTERS): Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused Germany on Monday of assisting terrorists by not responding to thousands of files sent to Berlin or handing over suspects wanted by Turkish authorities.

“Germany is abetting terrorists,” Erdogan told a conference in the Black Sea province of Rize, in comments likely to further escalate tensions between the two countries.

“We gave (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel 4,500 dossiers, but have not received an answer on a single one of them,” he told members of his ruling AK Party.

“When there is a terrorist, they can tell us to give that person back. You won’t send the ones you have to us, but can ask us for yours. So you have a judiciary, but we don’t in Turkey?” he said.

In Berlin, a German government source rejected Erdogan’s latest remarks.

“Everything has really been said about this,” said the source. “Repeating the same accusations over and over again does not make them any more true.”

Already tense relations deteriorated further last month after Turkey arrested 10 rights activists, including a German, as part of a wider security crackdown.

A Turkish prosecutor has accused them of links to the network of cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for a failed coup in July 2016. The US-based Gulen denies any involvement.

Turkey accuses Germany of sheltering Kurdish and far-leftist militants as well as military officers and other people linked to the abortive coup. Berlin denies the accusations.

Tensions between Berlin and Ankara were already running high after the arrest of a Turkish-German journalist and Turkey’s refusal to allow German lawmakers to visit troops at a Turkish air base.


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Venezuela launches manhunt for attackers of army base

Venezuela launched a country-wide manhunt on Monday for the men who assaulted an army base the day before, using state TV to flash pictures of the accused rebels who escaped with weapons after a gunfight with soldiers.

The attack came just hours after the first session of a new legislative superbody created by President Nicolas Maduro, which opponents say will cement dictatorship after months of deadly protests in the oil-rich but economically-ailing country.

Those who attacked the base near the city of Valencia said their operation was aimed at starting an insurgency against the unpopular leftist Maduro.

No more assaults were reported, and anti-Maduro protests in Valencia were quickly subdued, but hackers attacked dozens of state websites to show their support for the raid.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said in a televised address that two of the men who attacked the base had been shot dead and eight captured. About 10 others are on the run.

“This band of criminals did not act out of noble ideals or patriotic principles of any kind. They operated as mercenaries paid by extreme right-wing groups in Miami,” he said.

The leader of the attack was Juan Carlos Caguaripano, a former National Guard captain. Also involved in the assault was an army first lieutenant, who was captured, and a group of civilians who escaped along with Caguaripano.

“They managed to get away. A special operation has begun for their search and capture,” Padrino said, adding that three soldiers had been wounded in the pre-dawn Sunday gunfight.

Venezuela divided

About 2,000 government supporters marched in Caracas to show support for the constituent assembly elected eight days earlier despite wide criticism from the region and globally.

More than 120 people have died in anti-government protests since April. Maduro has said the assembly is the nation’s only hope of peace but many Venezuelans say it has left them without any democratic options to oppose him.

The assembly, which is stacked with Maduro’s Socialist Party allies, used its first session to fire the country’s top prosecutor, who had accused the president of human rights abuses.

The move confirmed opposition fears the body would use its vast powers to root out government critics.

Maduro’s critics have long referred to him as a dictator, especially since his loyalist Supreme Court started nullifying laws passed by the opposition-controlled congress.

Since the assembly’s election, leaders like US President Donald Trump and Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos have referred to Venezuela as a dictatorship as well.

Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature is refusing to recognise any of the decrees issued by the constitutional assembly.

In a vote on Monday, the legislature opted unanimously in favour of disavowing the super-body’s decisions to replace the nation’s outspoken chief prosecutor with a government loyalist and create a “truth commission” that will wield unusual power to prosecute and levy punishments.

Maduro says the new commission should hold opposition leaders accountable for the current wave of political unrest.

Opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano says the purpose of the truth commission is to “persecute those who think differently,” reported The Associated Press news agency.

The pro-government constitutional assembly is ruling with virtually unlimited authority and is expected to meet again on Tuesday.

‘The Great Dictator’

Meanwhile, a group calling itself The Binary Guardians said on Monday it hacked about 40 state web sites, including the portals for the government, the supreme court and the legislature, among others.

A representative told Reuters news agency in an interview that he was a Venezuelan national but declined to give specifics about the group or his location.

He said they were not part of the armed attack on the army base but supported it.

The country’s elections authority, which ran the July 31 vote for the new 545-member assembly, was among the sites hacked. Its website showed a flyer in favour of the base attack, and a video showing a clip from Charlie Chaplin film “The Great Dictator”.

In the clip, Chaplin gives a rousing speech against authoritarianism.

“Soldiers! Don’t give yourself to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel,” Chaplin says in the speech.

“Our struggle is digital,” the hacker group said. “You close the streets, we do so to networks”.

It urged anti-government protesters to demonstrate “and support our valiant soldiers”.

Courtesy: Al Jazeera

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North Korea vows to teach US ‘severe lesson’

North Korea is ready to give the United States a “severe lesson” if Washington takes military action against Pyongyang, pledging it will “under no circumstances” put its nuclear weapons and ballistic programmes on the negotiating table, the country’s foreign minister has said.

“We will under no circumstances put the nukes and ballistics rockets on [the] negotiating table,” Ri Yong-ho said in a statement released on Monday in the Philippine capital Manila, where he was attending a regional meeting of the Association of the South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“Neither shall we flinch even an inch from the road to bolstering up the nuclear forces chosen by ourselves unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the US against the DPRK [North Korea] are fundamentally eliminated.”

Ri said that the situation on the Korean Peninsula was becoming more extreme because of arbitrary actions by the US.

“We have no intention to use nuclear weapons against or threaten with nuclear weapons any other country except the US unless it joins military action of the US against North Korea,” he said.

The warning came two days after the UN Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions to punish North Korea, including a ban on coal and other exports worth over $1bn, for its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) test-launches last month.

Tillerson’s remarks

North Korea was under fire at the ASEAN forum in Manila, where US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Pyongyang should signal it was prepared to resume talks by stopping its missile tests.

“The best signal that North Korea could send that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” said Tillerson.

However, he said it was not a matter of stopping the launches by “a specific number of days or weeks”.

“This is really about the spirit of these talks,” he said. “And they can demonstrate that they are ready to sit in the spirit of finding their way forward in these talks by no longer conducting these missile tests.”

Tillerson discussed the need to ramp up international pressure on North Korea to force it to abandon its nuclear weapons programmes in meetings with Australia, Japan and South Korea.

Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono “condemned in the strongest terms North Korea’s unlawful pursuit of a nuclear weapons programme and unprecedented ballistic missile activity since last year”.

They called on the 10-nation ASEAN bloc “to maximise pressure on North Korea”.

In an earlier statement released via its official KCNA news agency, North Korea threatened to make the US “pay the price for its crime… thousands of times” for drafting the sanctions, which were supported by North Korea’s ally, China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who also attended the meeting, warned North Korea that Beijing, which is Pyongyang’s biggest trading partner, would be resolute in implementing the sanctions.

“China will for sure implement that new resolution 100 percent, fully and strictly,” Wang told reporters, according to a translator.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who held a meeting with Ri, called for a de-escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang also hit out at Beijing and Moscow, which has also offered North Korea diplomatic cover in the past.

On Sunday, North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri rejected Seoul’s offer of military talks saying it “lacked sincerity”, South Korean Yonhap news agency reported.

Courtesy: Al Jazeera

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Kenya goes to the polls in closely contested election

NAIROBI (Al Jazeera):  Kenyans are casting their votes to elect a president and a new parliament following weeks of campaigning and claims of a plot to rig the results.

Polling takes place between 6.00am (3:00 GMT) and 5.00pm (14:00 GMT) local time with results expected to be announced within seven days.

More than 19 million voters have registered to cast their vote in Tuesday’s election in 40,883 polling stations across the country.

Polling stations were crowded from the early hours of the day, with some voters queuing at stations as early as 1am despite the chilly weather of 15 Celcius degrees.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, 55, is seeking a second and final five-year term in office and faces stiff competition from an opposition coalition led by veteran politician Raila Odinga.

Odinga, 72, is running for the presidency for the fourth time.

Fourty three-year-old Aggrey Mwelesa, a father of four who works as a security guard, told Al Jazeera that he was happy to exercise his democratic right by voting in the election and the process was smooth.

“The exercise was smooth. Very calm. I came to the polling station at 2am. I pray for the best man for our country to win,” he said.

Alice Waithaka, a 35-year-old mother of two, said she had been queuing since 4am and did not experience any problems wile voting.

Polls have shown the two candidates – Kenyatta the son of the country’s founding father and Odinga former prime minister and son of the country’s vice president – neck and neck.

But no sitting president has ever lost an election in the East African country of 48 million people.

Five years ago Kenyatta defeated Odinga with the former prime minister disputing the results before they were confirmed by the country’s supreme court.

To win the election outright, either presidential candidate must garner at least 50 percent of the votes, plus one. Candidate must also get at least 25 percent of the votes in half of Kenya’s 47 counties to prevent a second round of voting.

If no candidate receives that, the election will go to a runoff, which would be a first in Kenya’s history.

The election is largely being fought over the economy and the courting of the youth vote. More than half of the registered voters are under the age of 35.

Kenyatta is promising to create more than one million new jobs in the country, which has the second biggest economy in the region. He also said he will reduce the cost of living in a country where 47 percent of the 48 million population live below the poverty line.

Odinga, on the other hand is promising to fight corruption. Transparency International – the global anti-corruption group ranks Kenya 145 out of 176 in its 2016 corruption index.

Odinga has also said he will create jobs for young people and make the country – which in recent years has experienced droughts – food secure.

In an interview with Al Jazeera earlier this week, Odinga said his party has put in place efforts to stop an alleged plot to tamper with results.

“There are attempts to manipulate the results,” Odinga said. “The only way [Kenyatta’s party] can win this election is by rigging.”

The country descended into violence in 2007 after the opposition, led by Odinga, claimed the election results were rigged in favour of the then incumbent Mwai Kibaki.

More than 1,000 people were killed in post-election violence and some 600,000 were displaced.

Kenyatta, while addressing a campaign rally last week, denied attempts to rig the elections and said the allegations by opposition leaders were a ploy to form a coalition government.

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North Korea defiant after new sanctions, rejects talks

North Korea on Monday angrily insisted that the tough new United Nations sanctions would not stop it from developing its nuclear arsenal, and warned it would not negotiate while being threatened by the United States.

The sanctions were a “violent violation of our sovereignty”, Pyongyang said in a statement carried by its official Korea Central News Agency.

The message of defiance was the first major response to the US-drafted sanctions that the UN Security Council unanimously approved over the weekend that could cost North Korea $1 billion a year while restricting crucial economic links with China.

“We will not put our self-defensive nuclear deterrent on the negotiating table” while it faced threats from Washington, it said, “and will never take a single step back from strengthening our nuclear might”.

North Korea threatened to make the US “pay the price for its crime… thousands of times”.

The statement came as North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho was in the Philippine capital of Manila for a security forum with the top diplomats from the US, China, Russia and other Asia-Pacific nations.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday ruled out a quick return to dialogue with North Korea, saying the new sanctions showed the world had run out of patience with Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Speaking to reporters at the forum, Tillerson said Washington would only consider talks if Pyongyang halted its ballistic missile programme.

“The best signal that North Korea could send that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” he said.

Tillerson held out the prospect of US envoys at some point sitting down with Pyongyang’s isolated regime and avoiding war, although he refused to say how long the North might have to refrain from testing more long-range missiles.

“I’m not going to give someone a specific number of days or weeks. This is really about the spirit of these talks,” he said.

The sanctions were in response to the North conducting its first two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month that Kim boasted showed he could strike any part of the US.

A rare exchange

Tillerson’s remarks followed a rare exchange on Sunday between Ri and his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-Wha, at a dinner to welcome all the foreign ministers.

North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho (R), is greeted by Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano during the Gala Dinner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.— AP

Kang urged Ri to accept Seoul’s offers of military talks to lower tensions on the divided peninsula and for discussions on a new round of reunions for divided families, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

But Yonhap reported that Ri retorted: “Given the current situation in which the South collaborates with the US to heap pressure on the North, such proposals lacked sincerity”.

US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-In, spoke on the phone on Sunday and agreed the North “poses a grave and growing direct threat”, according to a White House statement.

Trump later took to social media to hail the vote, thanking Russia and China in a Twitter post for backing the sanctions that either could have halted with their UN veto.

Trump said he was “very happy and impressed with 15-0 United Nations vote on North Korea sanctions”.

Tillerson, who held separate talks in Manila with foreign ministers Wang Yi of China and Sergei Lavrov of Russia on Sunday, also sought to emphasise a united stance against the North.

“It’s quite clear in terms of there being no daylight between the international community as to the expectation that North Korea will take steps to achieve all of my objectives, which is a denuclearised Korean peninsula,” he said.

In pointed criticism of Beijing and Moscow, Pyongyang’s fiery statement said other nations that “received appreciation from the US” for supporting the resolution would also be “held accountable for escalating tension on the peninsula”. Washington has recently stepped up pressure on Beijing to rein in its unpredictable neighbour, which relies heavily on China for aid and trade.

Signalling that differences remained between the world powers on how to handle the North, Wang on Sunday reiterated China’s position that sanctions alone would not solve the problem and called again for the US to talk to the North.

Courtesy: AFP

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Trump calls North Korea ‘growing direct threat’ to most of world

US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in affirmed in a Sunday telephone call that North Korea poses a growing threat to most of the world after recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests, the White House said.

In their call, the two leaders also welcomed the UN Security Council’s unanimous passage of a resolution on Saturday imposing new sanctions on Pyongyang, the White House said in a statement.

“The two leaders affirmed that North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the United States, South Korea, and Japan, as well as to most countries around the world,” the White House said. “The leaders committed to fully implement all relevant resolutions and to urge the international community to do so as well.”

The new sanctions on Pyongyang could slash North Korea’s $3 billion annual export revenue by a third. North Korea has been a focus of international attention in recent months, as it has conducted a series of ballistic missile tests, including two in July that helped prompt the U.N. action.

The US-drafted resolution bans North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood. It also prohibits countries from increasing the current numbers of North Korean labourers working abroad, bans new joint ventures with North Korea and any new investment in current joint ventures.

Washington has threatened to exert trade pressure on Beijing and impose sanctions on Chinese firms doing business with Pyongyang. Last week, Trump signed into law a sweeping set of sanctions on North Korea passed by the US Congress.

China’s foreign minister said on Sunday new UN sanctions on North Korea were the right response to a series of missile tests, but dialogue was vital to resolve a complex and sensitive issue, now at a “critical juncture.”

North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006. The new measures, which expand the existing sanctions, were a response to five nuclear tests and four long-range missile launches.

The standoff is expected to dominate Monday’s ASEAN Regional Forum, a gathering of 27 foreign ministers, including former participants in halted six-party talks on North Korea – Russia, Japan, the United States, China and North and South Korea.

Courtesy: REUTERS

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Russian vote meddling led to ‘serious mistrust’: Tillerson

MANILA (AFP): US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday he had told his Russian counterpart that Moscow´s meddling in the US presidential election had created “serious mistrust” between the two countries.

After meeting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Manila, Tillerson said he had also warned him Washington was deciding on a response to the Kremlin´s decision to order a cut in the size of the US mission in Moscow.

“Russian meddling in the elections was certainly a serious incident. We talked about that in the discussion that we had with Mr Lavrov yesterday,” Tillerson told reporters.

“And trying to help him understand just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship between the US and the American people and the Russian people, that this had created serious mistrust and that we simply have to find some way to deal with that.”

Russia has furiously denied reports, endorsed by US intelligence agencies, that it attempted to swing last year´s US presidential in favor of the eventual victor, President Donald Trump.

Trump has played down the allegations, but the ongoing controversy cast a pall over already tense ties, which most recently saw President Vladimir Putin order the US diplomatic mission in Moscow cut 755 personnel.

“I told the foreign minister that we have not made a decision about how we would respond to the Russian request to remove US diplomatic personnel,” Tillerson said.

“I asked several clarifying questions, just to describe the thinking behind that diplomatic note that we received, but I told them we would respond by September 1,” he said, referring to Moscow´s deadline to shrink the mission.


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Israel moves to close Al Jazeera, ban its journalists

Israel plans to revoke media credentials of Al Jazeera journalists and close the network’s office in Jerusalem, the country’s communication minister has announced.

Ayoub Kara made the announcement on Sunday during a press conference in Jerusalem, where Al Jazeera was barred from attending.

“We have based our decision on the move by Sunni Arab states to close the Al Jazeera offices and prohibiting their work,” Kara said, adding that the channel is being used by groups to “incite” violence – an accusation the network has denied.

Kara said he expects Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to consider his request in the next session.

“I will go through the [legislatorial] mechanism to create the authority in which I can act freely. We will try to end it as quickly as possible.”

Al Jazeera denounces measures

In a statement, the Doha-based media network denounced the measures from a country it says claims to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”.

“Al Jazeera stresses that it will closely watch the developments that may result from the Israeli decision, and will take the necessary legal measures towards it,” the statement read.

Al Jazeera also denied the charges its coverage of al-Aqsa Mosque unrest was unprofessional.

“Al Jazeera will continue to cover the events of the occupied Palestinian territories professionally and accurately, according to the standards set by international agencies, such as the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom).”

The pan-Arab network’s offices in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah would not be affected by the current Israeli move.

The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, also known as Adalah, challenged the plan, saying it would be subject to scrutiny before the Supreme Court, adding that “it would fail the test of legality”.

Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from Jerusalem on Sunday, said that the request to revoke the credentials cover all the network’s journalists in both the Arabic and English channels.

Israel moves to close Al Jazeera

It was unclear when the government will act on the request.

Our correspondent reported that Israel is also seeking to shut down Al Jazeera’s cable and satellite transmissions in the country.

During the press conference, Kara also said that the interior ministry will also be involved in shutting down Al Jazeera’s office in Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened to shut Al Jazeera’s operations in the country, accusing the network of inciting violence against Israel. His most recent attack on July 27 accused the network of “inciting violence”.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera senior political analyst, said the latest move by Israel shows a “synergy” of “dictatorships” in the Arab world and “dictatorship of military occupation in Palestine”.

“It is as if closing down a network will diminish violence, when everyone knows that repression and military occupation, and aggression is the reason for violence in the region. Not reporting it,” he said.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Rami Khouri of the American University in Beirut, denounced the plan saying it is “very typical of regimes” in the region.

“Regimes that want to control power will almost always go after two targets – the media and the foreigners. Everybody goes after the media.”

Aidan White, director of the London-based Ethical Journalism Network, called Israel’s decision “a full frontal attack” on press freedom.

“It is a shocking statement, and it completely undermines Israel’s claims to be the only democracy in the region, because it gets to the heart of one of the most important institutions of democracy.

“This attack on Al Jazeera is really an attack on all critical independent journalism.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists has also criticised the Israeli move.

“Censoring Al Jazeera or closing its offices will not bring stability to the region, but it would put Israel firmly in the camp of some of the region’s worst enemies of press freedom,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Programme Coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement.

“Israel should abandon these undemocratic plans and allow Al Jazeera and all journalists to report freely from the country and areas it occupies,” it said.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia and Jordan both shut down Al Jazeera bureaus as part of a coordinated diplomatic and economic campaign against Qatar, where the headquarters of Al Jazeera Media Network is located.

Al Jazeera’s signal has also been blocked in the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt, which is also part of the blocking group, banned Al Jazeera several years ago.

Courtesy: Al Jazeera

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Kenyan elections: The ethnicity factor

NAIROBI (Aljazeera):  A convoy of pick-up trucks wrapped in shiny touched-up photos of candidates and mounted with huge speakers drive slowly in front of Anne Wanjiru Kamau’s food stall in Nairobi’s Pangani area, blasting campaign speeches by politicians from Kenya’s opposition coalition. On August 8, Kamau and millions of Kenyan voters will cast their ballots in the country’s general election, but today, Kamau is not paying much attention to the campaign slogans passing by, nor are her customers.

“I will vote for Kenyatta. He is our son. They are wasting their time,” Kamau tells Al Jazeera as she weighs a kilo of red beans for a customer.

Kamau, like President Uhuru Kenyatta, comes from the Kikuyu tribe – the country’s biggest ethnic group.

Ethnicity plays a big role in who makes it to the presidency in this East African country. Kenya is home to more than 40 tribes and competition for political seats has never been more serious, with most Kenyans getting behind candidates from their ethnic groups.

The five largest ethnic groups – the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo and Kamba – make up nearly 70 percent of the country’s 48 million population, according to country’s last population census in 2009. Most of the leaders playing an important role in deciding the outcome of the election come from these tribes.

The opposition coalition is led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga from the Luo tribe – Kenya’s fourth-largest group. His running mates are from the Luhya and Kamba group. Kenyatta’s running mate is from the country’s third-biggest tribe.

“This is going to be my third time voting and I have never voted for someone from another tribe,” Kamau says.

“In 2007, I voted for Kibaki [a Kikuyu] and in 2013, I supported Kenyatta,” the 38-year-old added.

Almost all the voters who spoke to Al Jazeera in the Kenyan capital said they are voting for candidates from their own tribe out of “fear” of someone other than their own taking office and lack of “trust” in candidates from other ethnic groups.

Dorothy Makungu’s shop is located not far from Kamau’s stall across the traffic-congested road. She sells fruits and fresh juices to passing traffic and pedestrians. Makungu says she is not excited about the elections but knows for which candidate she will vote.

“There is nothing Kenyatta can say to make me vote for him. Last election, I voted for Raila and this time I will vote for him,” she says.

Makungu is from Kenya’s second biggest tribe, the Luhya. Moses Wetangula and Musalia Mudavadi, the leaders of the tribe, are in a coalition with Odinga.

“I support Wetangula as our leader and he is with Odinga,” 32-year-old Makungu says.

Ten minutes’ drive from Makungu’s shop towards downtown Nairobi, a group of young Boda Boda, motorcycle taxis, gather to wait for passengers as the city’s commuters leave work.

Most of the young men are wearing colourful jackets donned with images of the different parties and candidates running for office.

David Mawira Njeru, 29, is a third-time voter and it is clear from the stickers on his motorbike where his loyalty lies.

“I’m Uhuru. He is the only one I trust. To me, he is the only candidate I feel safe with,” says Njeru. “It is not tribalism. It is just preferring your own people.”

Titus Otieno from the Luo tribe, a university student and a supporter of Raila Odinga stands a short distance away in apparent hurry to join an opposition event. “We must back our own. Only our own will bring us development. And that’s why I’m going to vote Raila,” Otieno says rushing away.

Politics in Kenya is fluid and ethnicity plays a huge part. To win the presidency, a candidate must win more than 50 percent and no single tribe has that number on its own. Candidates form tribal alliances to get themselves and their ethnic group a seat at the top table. Although, tribal coalitions are also easily broken up if a better offer comes along.

Mwai Kibaki, Raila Odinga, William Ruto were in a coalition against Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2002 election, which Kibaki won.

Then, the following election in 2007, Odinga and Ruto formed a coalition to oppose Kibaki and Kenyatta who were on the same side the next time around.

“They are all the same. They are there for their own interest. The only difference between them is the tribe they belong to,”

Anne Wanjiru Kamau, voter

Kibaki was announced the winner, but the results were disputed by the opposition leading to deadly violence. More than 1,000 people were killed and over a half-million displaced. The violence only stopped after Kibaki and Odinga formed a coalition government. Kibaki left office in 2012 after he served two terms in office.

In the 2012 general election, Kenyatta formed a coalition with Ruto and contested against Odinga.

Joshua Ndongo Onono was a running mate of a presidential candidate in the 2012 election. Onono says politics in Kenya is not much different from politics in other parts of the world.

“In the West, many people vote certain way depending on whether they are working class or well-off. Some have conservative views and will vote for candidates on the right of the political spectrum. In Kenya, it is ethnicity,” Onono tells Al Jazeera.

“In 10 to 30 years, we will move on from this. We will base our decisions on what the candidates offer, for example, tax breaks or better and cheaper healthcare,” Onono adds.

But as campaigning comes to and end and candidates eagerly wait to see if their campaign rhetoric has convinced voters, Kenyans say they don’t expect their life to change no matter who wins.

“They are all the same. They are there for their own interest. The only difference between them is the tribe they belong to,” Kamau, the food stall owner, says.