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Kenyan bishops urge calm as opposition rejects early results


  • People gather outside a polling station Aug. 8 at St. Monica Catholic Church in Kitengela, Kenya. Catholic bishops in Kenya called for calm in the East Africa nation, as pockets of violent post election protests left at least five dead in opposition strongholds. (CNS photo/Fredrick Nzwili)
  • A supporter of the opposition leader Raila Odinga reacts as he holds up a sign that reads "No Raila, No Peace" during an Aug. 9 protest in Nairobi, Kenya. Catholic bishops in Kenya called for calm in the East Africa nation, as pockets of violent post election protests left at least five dead in opposition strongholds. (CNS photo/Dai Kurokawa, EPA)
  • A woman reacts after a man was killed by riot police during protests Aug. 9 in Nairobi, Kenya. Protesters and police in Kenya have clashed after the leader of the government opposition claimed he was cheated of victory by a hacking attack that he said manipulated the results in the country's presidential election. At least 3 people have been killed. (CNS photo/Thomas Mukoya, Reuters)
  • A man reacts after a protester was killed killed by riot police Aug. 9 in Nairobi, Kenya. Protesters and police in Kenya have clashed after the leader of the government opposition claimed he was cheated of victory by a hacking attack that he said manipulated the results in the country's presidential election. At least 3 people have been killed. (CNS photo/Thomas Mukoya, Reuters)
  • A woman cries after a supporter of government opposition leader Raila Odinga was killed by riot police during protests Aug. 9 in Nairobi, Kenya. Protesters and police in Kenya have clashed after the leader of the opposition claimed he was cheated of victory by a hacking attack that he said manipulated the results in the country's presidential election. At least 3 people have been killed. (CNS photo/Marius Bosch, Reuters)
  • Riot police run in front of a burning barricade during protests Aug. 9 in Nairobi, Kenya. Protesters and police in Kenya have clashed after the leader of the government opposition claimed he was cheated of victory by a hacking attack that he said manipulated the results in the country's presidential election. At least 3 people have been killed. (CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

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NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Catholic bishops in Kenya called for calm in the East Africa nation, as pockets of violent postelection protests left at least five dead in opposition strongholds.

The protests had ignited slums in Nairobi and Kisumu after Raila Odinga, the main opposition candidate, rejected the provisional early results, which showed incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta had taken an early lead in Aug. 8 voting.

"We are saying to the actors (politicians), you were given an opportunity to go around the country; now can you stop and reflect and allow Kenyans to pause as they wait for the results," said Bishop Alfred Rotich, retired head of the country's military diocese, at an Aug. 10 news conference.

"We need to be calm, we need to be sober ... this is moment for peace," he added.

In Eldoret, Bishop Cornelius Arap Korir issued a similar appeal. In some areas, his diocese is still recovering from a deadly postelection violence that occurred 10 years ago.

"We urge calm. Those who (are) aggrieved should go to court," said Bishop Arap Korir.

Between Dec. 28, 2007, and Feb. 28, 2008, at least 1,000 people died and 600,000 were displaced from their homes, after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner and Odinga rejected the polls as rigged.

As votes were counted this year, foreign observers described the election as credible. Thabo Mbeki, former South African president, said the voting process, counting at polling centers and transmission of the results met standards set by Kenya and the African Union. Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the election's integrity remained intact, while the European Union observers said candidates should accept that losing is natural.

The Multi-Sectoral Forum, a group of religious leaders that has advocated for peaceful elections, called on Kenyans "to remain calm and peaceful (and) resume day-to-day operations, appreciating that elections are important, but must not be the end of life."

Explaining why Kenya has been jumping from crisis to crisis in elections, Bishop Rotich said: "Politicians spent a lot of money for many years, five years, campaigning without stopping. Despite the anxiety, they don't have time to reflect."

He suggested politicians should be restricted to two-month campaigns and recommended stress relief activities for after elections.

Some Catholic Church centers hosted polling stations, using church schools and social halls.

Msgr. Wilybard Lagho, vicar general of the Mombasa Archdiocese, said the election commission had approached the church about offering polling stations, and church officials agreed.

"It was a weekday, so worship activities were not disrupted," he said.

In some remote regions, the Catholic Church is the only institution with structures that can allow peaceful voting, protection of voting material and of officials.

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