"I have absolute confidence that Kenya has a chance to be a model for other nations, not just here in Africa but around the world," she said. "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."
Some estimate that the widespread violence and unrest that followed the 2007 election cost Kenya more than a billion dollars in lost revenue. In addition, it marred what had been a solid reputation as a stable democracy in East Africa.
More than 1,000 people were killed in postelection violence after police ejected observers from the center where votes were being tallied and the electoral body declared Kibaki the winner.
The International Criminal Court has ordered four prominent Kenyans to stand trial for allegedly orchestrating the wave of violence. Among them are two potential 2013 presidential candidates, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former Education Minister William Ruto.
Kenyatta is the son of Kenya's founding president, Jomo Kenyatta, and the country's richest citizen, with a personal fortune of half a billion dollars. Ruto is a former ally of Odinga, but the two had a falling-out, partly over Ruto's insistence on making his own presidential bid.
Two of those ordered to stand trial are Kibaki supporters, while the other two backed his rival in the presidential race, Odinga. Odinga was later appointed prime minister in a power-sharing government.
Clinton urged Kenya to put in place a credible system for dealing with potential voting problems. Such a mechanism will be critical to ensuring stability when the winners and losers are announced.
"When you lose an election and when your supporters see you lose an election, it's important that they have to see that the process is there," she said. "That's what we hope for here for our friends in Kenya."
In addition to her discussions on the political climate in Kenya, Clinton also sat down with members of Somalia's transitional government. She said she was encouraged by progress that Somalian leaders have made in trying to reestablish a viable central government in the Horn of Africa nation where an al-Qaeda-linked insurgency group still partly rules.
Clinton arrived in Kenya from Uganda on Saturday and is on the fourth leg of an 11-day tour of Africa. The trip began in Senegal and will take her next to Malawi and South Africa.