Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga called for calm when visiting a slum in the capital hit by violence when a political stand-off over a repeat presidential election fed rising ethnic tensions.
Clashes in Kawangware and in a village in western Kenya following Thursday’s vote were the first signs face-offs between Odinga supporters and police might eventually morph into neighbours turning against each other.
“A country cannot be ruled by the gun. Standing here in this church we want to condemn the militarisation of politics in this country,” Odinga told residents in the Nairobi slum.
The veteran opposition leader boycotted the re-run of an August presidential election nullified by Kenya’s Supreme Court on procedural grounds, leaving President Uhuru Kenyatta with an almost free run against six minor candidates.
On Friday, a day after the repeat vote, ethnic violence in Kawangware saw dozens of homes and shops torched and a man killed. Most buildings torched belonged to residents from Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe.
A man from Odinga’s Luo group was killed overnight near Koguta village in the west, after residents from two ethnic groups backing different candidates armed themselves.
If such isolated incidents become a trend, it could ignite large swathes of Kenya, as happened after the 2007 presidential election when weeks of violence left 1,200 dead. That sent ripples throughout East Africa, which relies on Kenya as a trade and diplomatic hub.
In his speech, Odinga condemned violence generally and did not single out any particular attack.
“We have come to give consolation to those beaten and killed. We as NASA condemn what happened,” he told worshippers at a church in Kawangware, referring to his National Super Alliance opposition coalition.
Odinga boycotted Thursday’s vote because he said the contest would not be fair. Instead, he wanted it dismissed and fresh elections held within 90 days.
His withdrawal means Kenyans are watching turnout, rather than the result, for an indication of Kenyatta’s popularity for a second, five-year term.
Results published on Sunday by the election commission showed Kenyatta won slightly more than 98% of the vote with results in from 244 out of 291 constituencies.
Turnout for constituencies counted so far was 43%. That figure is likely to decrease when it includes returns of zero from least 23 constituencies where authorities were unable to open even a single polling station because of protests by Odinga supporters.
The election board planned to hold elections there on Saturday, but postponed the plan amid fears of further violence.