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Calls for peace as Kenya awaits the results of a close presidential campaign

#Calls #peace #Kenya #awaits #results #close #presidential #campaign

Kenyans prayed for peace on Sunday as they anxiously awaited the final result of the presidential election, with the two top candidates almost neck and neck, according to partial official results.

On Sunday morning, Deputy President William Ruto was slightly ahead of his rival Raila Odinga, data from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) showed, before pausing the live feed showing the percentage of votes won by both men.

The IEBC, which has now counted votes from more than 70 percent of constituencies, did not provide an explanation for the decision.

But a running tally by the Daily Nation newspaper, citing official data, says Ruto has so far garnered 52.54 percent of the vote, while Odinga has had 46.78 percent.

Tuesday’s voting was largely peaceful, but after previous elections sparked deadly violence and rigged claims, the IEBC is under intense pressure to deliver a clean poll and release the results by Tuesday.

Riot police were deployed overnight at the commission’s heavily guarded census center in the capital, Nairobi, after political party agents disrupted the process and hurled fabricated allegations at each other.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati has accused party agents of delaying the counting process by pestering poll officials with unnecessary questions.

More than a dozen civil society groups, labor unions and the Kenyan chapters of Amnesty International and Transparency International issued a statement Sunday calling for calm.

“We call on all political candidates, their supporters and the public to exercise restraint. We all must avoid stoking tensions that could easily spark violence,” the 14 organizations said.

The poll pitted Odinga, a veteran opposition leader now backed by the ruling party, against Ruto, who was widely expected to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta until his boss sided with former enemy Odinga in a dramatic move of political loyalty.

– ‘Let’s have peace’ –

Both candidates have pledged to remain calm as memories of the post-election violence in 2007-08 and 2017 are fresh for many Kenyans.

“We voted peacefully, we went through this process peacefully and it is my prayer that we end this process peacefully,” Ruto, 55, said at a service in Nairobi on Sunday.

At a separate service in the capital, Odinga, 77, recited the opening lines of St Francis’ prayer for peace and said: “I want to become an instrument to bring peace, to heal, to unite and to keep hope alive in our country.” .”

Worshipers in Odinga’s stronghold of Kisumu also prayed for a peaceful outcome, with Bishop Washington Ogonyo Ngede telling his 300-strong flock, “Let’s not be divided by politics. We must remain united.”

“Because leaders come and go, but the country of Kenya lives forever,” said Ngede, a lifelong friend of the Odinga family.

“Let’s have peace,” he said to cheers and shouts.

At Ruto’s Rift Valley bastion of Eldoret, clergymen and parishioners alike demanded calm and patience.

“We have come here to pray for peace, for our country, for our politicians, asking them to be very careful and prudent in their statements,” Bishop Dominic Kimengich said.

“We’ve been through this as Kenyans, we know that any careless remark … can easily spark conflict and we don’t want that,” he told AFP.

Churchgoer Mary Wanjiru, 59, told AFP she “doesn’t want to hear hate speech from politicians”.

“We want a peaceful Kenya.”

– Lower voter turnout –

Kenyans voted in six elections, electing a new president as well as senators, governors, legislators, women’s representatives and about 1,500 county officials.

Lawyer David Mwaure – one of the four presidential candidates, along with former spy George Wajackoyah – conceded on Sunday, backing Ruto, whose party won a key gubernatorial race when Johnson secured Sakaja control of Nairobi, Kenya’s wealthiest city.

The election is being closely watched by an international community that sees Kenya as a pillar of stability in a volatile region.

Turnout was about 65 percent, much lower than the 78 percent recorded in 2017, which some observers say reflects disenchantment with the political elite, particularly among young people.

The winner of the presidential race must receive 50 percent plus one vote and at least a quarter of the votes in 24 of Kenya’s 47 districts.

Otherwise, the country must hold a runoff within 30 days of the original vote.

Observers say that with the race so close, an appeal to the Supreme Court for the losing nominee is almost certain, meaning it could be many weeks before a new president takes office.

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