The participation of the 90-year-old Mrs. Obama, who is Muslim and is the third wife of President Obama’s grandfather, is seen as important for the effort, according to organizers, who include business leaders, nongovernmental organizations, and interfaith groups. Mrs. Obama is regarded as a minor celebrity in her home district for her relationship to the American president and for her charity work: a foundation to help children orphaned by AIDS has been started in her name.
As the elections approach, Kenyans face serious social and economic hardship. Unemployment in the country of 42 million is about 40 percent, up from 12.7 percent in 2006, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Prices for food and other staple commodities have skyrocketed: corn, for example, has doubled in price in recent years, rising to about 60 Kenyan shillings (about 70 cents) a kilogram.
As many as 55 percent of Kenyans are worried about the political environment and potential violence, according to a poll by Strategic Research and Communication Consultants for Africa. The Dec. 17-19 poll surveyed 1,500 Kenyans in face-to-face interviews. No margin of error was given.
Hence the letter-writing campaign.