Kenya’s bishops have said that they “applaud” the opposition party’s decision to challenge the contested election result in the country’s Supreme Court rather than calling for demonstrations.
“Concerning the recent contested Presidential election results, our stand as your shepherds has been very clear: all the aggrieved parties should use the legal means as provided for in the Constitution to seek redress,” write the country’s bishops in a statement released on 17 August.
Lawyers representing Kenyan opposition coalition the National Super Alliance (NASA) filed a petition on Friday (18 August) with the Supreme Court challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election.
Raila Odinga, NASA’s 72-year-old presidential candidate, has rejected the electoral commission's results which say Kenyatta won by roughly 1.4 million votes, with 54 per cent of the vote. Odinga claims the election was rigged in favour of Kenyatta through the hacking and manipulation of the electronic vote-counting system. He has not yet provided proof of discrepancies but has said he will do so in court.
Twenty-four people are reported to have died in violence protests since the election on 8 August.
In their statement, the bishops strongly condemn post-election violence, urging state security and police to respond to protests with restraint.
“Dear Kenyans, to lose even one life because of elections is abominable,” writes chairman of the Kenyan Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Philip Anyolo.
“This must never be allowed in any civilized society like Kenya. It is imperative upon all State Agents of security and indeed all peace loving Kenyans, to exercise civility and restraint in responding to disputes and protests,” the statement continues.
Accordingly, the bishops praise Odinga’s decision to move to the judiciary rather than encouraging his supporters to protest.
"It is only by respecting and having recourse to the established Constitutional institutions that we, as Kenyans, are able to enhance and strengthen the rule of law and the democratic process in our Country," they write.
Widespread violence broke out in 2007 when Odinga called for demonstrations following the election results. Around 1,200 people died in the unrest.
In 2013, Odinga also contested – and officially lost – an election, but quelled potential violence by taking his case to court. Judges eventually ruled that much of his evidence was being submitted outside time limits set by the court, frustrating his supporters and sparking suspicion over the judiciary’s independence.
In their statement the bishops call for the judiciary to discharge their mandate justly, “in a fair and impartial manner” and urge them not to “give in to any form of coercion or intimidation”.
As the country waits for the determination of the disputed election the bishops urge their government, starting with President Kenyatta, to “take the lead in uniting the country.”
PICTURE: Demonstrators in Kisumu, Kenya, supporting opposition leader Raila Odinga set barricades on fire after their political leader claimed fraud in the 8 August elections