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 CNS Story:

KENYA-ELECTION (UPDATED) Mar-11-2013 (440 words) With photos posted March 7 and 8. xxxi

Kenyan bishops urge citizens to keep peace in wake of election

By Catholic News Service

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Kenya's bishops called on citizens to remain calm and peaceful in the wake of the country's tightly contested presidential election.

No major election-related violence was reported after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission announced March 9 that challenger Uhuru Kenyatta received slightly more than 50 percent of the vote to win the presidency over Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Kenyatta received 50.07 percent of more than 12 million votes cast, crossing the threshold to avoid a runoff by some 8,000 votes.

Odinga appealed the outcome to the Supreme Court, saying the election commission failed in carrying out a number of tasks under the country's new constitution.

Despite the challenge, the outcome was a far cry from the violence that marred the 2007 election in which ethnic clashes resulted in more than 1,000 deaths and left large areas of Kenya in ruins as rival ethnic groups fought over a tightly contested outcome. The disputed election led to a power-sharing agreement among Kenya's two major political parties and a new constitution.

Prior to this month's election, violence claimed 14 lives, including six police officers. But incidents of violence were few after balloting ended, authorities said.

Issuing their statement 48 hours before the commission announced the final count, the bishops thanked Kenyans for turning out in large numbers to vote for president and local officials and for maintaining peace throughout the election period.

The bishops said they were saddened by the deaths and offered condolences while urging authorities to do all they could to track down the killers. Despite the violence, they urged Kenyans to "resume their normal work and continue building the nation."

"These were historic elections which were waited for with much anticipation and took place at a critical moment in the country's history," said the statement, signed by Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay on behalf of the Kenya Episcopal Conference.

"As Kenya waits for the final poll results of various electoral positions and in particular the presidential results, we should recall the remarkable progress made over the last few years," the statement said.

"After one of the darkest episodes in the country's recent history, following the 2007 elections, Kenya is once again on a positive path," the bishops said.

Commending Kenyans for working to heal the wounds of division, build national unity and shape an institutional framework to safeguard the nation's future, the bishops said much remains to be accomplished.

"We appeal to you to remain peaceful even after the release of the results. We also appeal to you to continue praying for the successful completion of the process," the bishops said.


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