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Uneasy calm in Kenya after court ruling on vote

March 31, 2013

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan police deployed forces Sunday in the capital and the lakeside city of Kisumu to contain the continuing threat of violence after five people were killed in riots Saturday, officials said, but the country remained mostly peaceful after a court upheld Uhuru Kenyatta’s election as president.

Rowdy youths in Nairobi’s slums were still trying to protest the Supreme Court’s ruling against Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s challenge to the validity of Kenyatta’s win, Nairobi police officials said Sunday.

At least three people rioting in Nairobi’s Dandora slum were shot dead by police on Saturday, police said, bringing to five the number of people killed in postelection violence since the court’s verdict was given on Saturday. Two people were killed and five seriously injured Saturday in riots in Kisumu, Odinga’s hometown, said Ole Metito, police chief for Nyanza province.

The incidents on Saturday threatened to disrupt the peace across most of Kenya, which five years ago degenerated into deadly violence stemming from a disputed election. But police said the heavy presence of forces Sunday in trouble spots — especially slum areas where many of Odinga’s supporters live —was likely to deter protesters still angry over Kenyatta’s court victory.

An unexploded bomb was discovered inside a minibus at a Nairobi bus stop on Sunday, police said.

“There is tension obviously, but with the deployment of officers we have done we don’t anticipate anything,” said Moses Ombati, the deputy police chief for Nairobi.

Although Odinga accepted the court’s decision, some of his supporters reacted angrily to his loss, taking to the streets and engaging the police in running battles.

“There was chaos in places where people were throwing stones. Now we have officers monitoring the general situation,” Metito said.

Kenyatta, who is to be sworn in on April 9, said late Saturday that he would be a president for all Kenyans and urged them to move past the election and build a nation “at peace with itself.” He repeated the same message during a Easter Sunday church service.

The March 4 election was described by many as the most complicated in Kenya’s history. It pitted Kenyatta against Odinga, whose disputed loss in the 2007 election triggered postelection violence that killed more than 1,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. Kenyatta faces criminal charges at the International Criminal Court for allegedly encouraging that violence, the reason many Western governments have said they may have limited contact with Kenya’s new president. His win may complicate Kenya’s relationship with the U.S., which had warned of “consequences” in the event of Kenyatta’s victory. The White House on Saturday congratulated him and urged Kenyans “to peacefully accept the results of the election.”

Kenyatta, who has promised to cooperate with the ICC, will become the second sitting African president to face charges at The Hague. William Ruto, his running mate, who is set to become Kenya’s deputy president, faces similar charges. Both men deny any wrongdoing.

Unlike after the 2007 election, which degenerated into tribe-on-tribe violence, Kenya has been largely peaceful following these elections.

Odinga charged the presidential election was “tainted” by irregularities. Odinga’s lawyers alleged in court that the electoral commission boosted Kenyatta’s numbers at some polling stations, helping him to avoid a runoff election with Odinga. According to official figures, Kenyatta avoided a runoff by about 8,000 votes out of 12.3 million cast.

The Supreme Court decided that Kenyatta was validly elected and that the election was conducted in compliance with the constitution. The judges are expected to release a detailed judgment in two weeks.

Odinga said he accepted this verdict even though he regretted that some of the evidence produced by his lawyers had been disregarded.

“Casting doubt on the judgment of the court could lead to higher political and economic uncertainty, and make it more difficult for our country to move forward,” he said Saturday after the verdict. “We must soldier on in our resolve to reform our politics and institutions. Respect for the supremacy of the constitution in resolving disputes between fellow citizens is the surest foundation of our democratic society. ”


Muhumuza contributed from Kampala, Uganda.

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