Kenyans yesterday called for reconciliation after a disputed presidential election, but calm prevailed in the country the day after results were declared, in striking contrast to the aftermath of the 2007 polls.
Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces an international trial for crimes against humanity, was on Saturday declared the winner, but his main rival, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, has vowed to challenge the result in court.
“The country is split right down the middle on tribal and economic lines,” the Standard newspaper said in an editorial, calling on president-elect Kenyatta, from one of the continent’s richest families, to mend the divisions.
Kenyatta faces trial at the Hague-based International Criminal Court over his alleged role in the violence after the bitterly contested election in 2007 that sparked one of the worst bouts of ethnic bloodletting in Kenya.
Odinga said he would mount a legal challenge alleging “massive tampering” during Monday’s vote, but appealed for calm.
Kenyatta was declared winner by the slimmest of margins — 50.07 percent against Odinga’s 43.31 percent.
“Any violence now could destroy the country forever, and that would not serve anyone’s interests,” Odinga said.
Odinga — in his third failed attempt at the top job — said he would respect the decision of the Supreme Court even if it ruled against him.
Top officials said all measures were in force to prevent a repeat of 2007.
“The country has been mostly peaceful throughout this period, we had no major incidents even after the election,” Kenya’s police chief David Kimaiyo said.
“Even in areas where a few elements wanted to cause problems, the response was very swift and we managed to restore order,” Kimaiyo said.
The Sunday Nation paper said the conciliatory tone adopted by Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto in their acceptance speeches was “certainly a good start toward confronting the deep ethnic divisions in the country brought about by political competition.”
“We have demonstrated that we learned from the 2007 post-election violence that claimed the lives of 1,300 people and said ‘never again,’” it said.
Odinga has seven days starting yesterday in which to file his complaint and the court has two weeks to hand down its decision.
Kenyatta has offered “my older brother” Odinga an olive branch, telling thousands of his party loyalists he wanted to work with him “in moving our nation forward.”
He also called on his celebrating supporters to be “modest in our victory.”
Anastasia Ngina, a Nairobi church goer in her mid-50s, said she voted for Odinga, but accepted his defeat.
“Kenyatta is the elected president and we all have to support him, whether we voted for him or not because the most important thing is that we are all Kenyans,” she said.
Sister Stella, a nun at the same parish, said mass at the church had started with a play whose theme was “Don’t let this kind of election divide us.”
“The violence of 2007-2008 and the wanton loss of both human lives and property taught all of us invaluable and enduring lessons,” said Ahmednasir Adullahi, a lawyer and publisher.