Obama urges Kenya to avoid violence as election looms

US President Barack Obama has urged the people of Kenya, where his father was born, to avoid violence and intimidation in next month's elections.

He posted the message, which begins with a greeting in Swahili, on YouTube.

He said the polls were a chance for Kenyans to come together to show they were not just members of tribes or ethnic groups, but a proud nation.

Kenya's disputed presidential election in 2007 descended into violence in which more than 1,000 were killed.

Kenyans head to the polls on 4 March to vote for president and other offices in the first national election since that violence.

"Kenya must reject intimidation and violence and allow a free and fair vote. Kenyans must resolve disputes in the courts, not in the streets," Mr Obama said in the video message.

"Above all, the people of Kenya must come together before and after the election to carry on the work of building your country," he added.

The US president's father was born in Kenya and his step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, still lives in the village of Kogelo.

Barack Obama senior died in a road accident in Kenya in 1982.

President Obama said he had been "greatly moved" by the "warmth and spirit, the strength and resolve of the Kenyan people" during several trips to his father's homeland and urged Kenyans to mark the 50th anniversary of independence by coming together.