THE Presidential election in Kenya has left the country “grossly divided along ethnic and political lines”, the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) has warned.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the day after Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner, the Council’s committee condemned “ugly incidents involving police excesses”, including the use of live bullets.
Since the first run of the election in August (News, 11 August), dozens of people have been killed in clashes between protesters and the police. The re-run, on Thursday of last week, took place after the Supreme Court declared the result invalid (News, 8 September). It was boycotted by the leader of the opposition, Raila Odinga, who said that he would only participate if the Electoral Commission, criticised by the Supreme Court ruling, was reformed.
Mr Kenyatta won 98 per cent of the vote on a turnout of 39 per cent. Protests by Mr Odinga’s supporters prevented polling stations from opening in 25 constituencies, but the Commission said that this would not “materially affect” the result.
In its statement, the NCCK, which includes the Anglican Church of Kenya, acknowledged that the election’s legitimacy had been contested and urged the aggrieved to pursue their case through the Supreme Court.
“This election has left the country grossly divided along ethnic and political lines,” the statement said. “This has greatly strained our national unity, and exposed the country to inter ethnic conflicts as has started emerging in the recent past.” The divisions were “expressions of unresolved grievances and perceptions of exclusion and denial of dignity of the opposition”. The NCCK has previously recommended constitutional amendments to address some of these grievances.
The statement condemned “the choice of politicians and their followers who engage in activities that breach our laws”, and called on Kenyans to “focus on what brings us together”. The NCCK is seeking a “national conversation that includes all Kenyans so as to harness our diversities”.
Mr Odinga said this week that allowing the election to stand would “make a complete mockery of elections and might well be the end of the ballot as a means of instituting government in Kenya”. He called for “economic boycotts, peaceful processions, picketing, and other legitimate protests”.