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Ruto concedes defeat as Church leaders cry foul

By | August 6th 2010 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By Peter Opiyo

Politicians and clerics in the ‘No’ team were united in calling for consultations over the new constitution, but were divided on the integrity of the referendum.

While the politicians praised the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) as having "done fairly well", the clerics claimed the process was marred by irregularities.

At separate media briefings at the Bomas of Kenya, they, however, called on Kenyans to maintain peace, even as the clerics failed to concede defeat. The MPs, on their part conceded defeat.

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Higher Education Minister William Ruto led eight MPs in praising the Interim IIEC and accepted the results.

But in a statement read by National Council of Churches of Kenya Secretary General Canon Peter Karanja, the clerics under the banner Kenya Christian Church Leaders, claimed irregularities continued into balloting and tallying phases.

Entry denied

Higher Education Minister William Ruto (centre) Thursday led politicians in the ‘No’ team in conceding defeat at the referendum at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi. [PHOTO: MOSES OMUSULA/STANDARD]

"We are saddened by the fact that the pre-referendum process was marked by malpractices and irregularities, which continued right into the balloting and tallying phases. This calls into question the validity of the process and its outcome," said Rev Karanja.

Bishop Gerry Kibabara of Evangelical Churches of Kenya claimed they did not know how the computer operations were applied at the tallying centre to compute results as Bishop Mark Kariuki claimed their IT experts were denied entry into the tallying centre.

They, however, could not give any evidence, when pressed further by journalists, with Kibabara waving away the media with a "there is no winner" answer.

Mr Ruto said Kenyans have made their statements, but pointed out that the two million who voted against the document is a significant number that cannot be ignored.

"As democrats we will accept the verdict of Kenyans. Since the country has decided that amendments be conducted later, we are now proposing as the ‘No’ team that immediate consultations start on both sides," he said.

Gallant Kenyans

Ruto said 55 per cent of the voters either rejected or abstained from the vote, saying they are a majority and must be brought on board.

"We want to single out the two million gallant Kenyans who resisted blackmail to point fundamental flaws in the draft. We respect the verdict given by majority of voters. We accept that verdict as democrats," said Ruto.

He, however, did not comment on the possibility of a sack as a Cabinet minister, saying "I don’t think that is a discussion for now".

The clerics said what they consider as contentious must be addressed immediately, pointing out that only 30 per cent of registered voters endorsed the new law.

"Throughout this process, the Church has adopted the position that the new constitution contains various contentious issues whose implications are grave for our nation. The results announced following the referendum do not in any way nullify these contentions. They must be resolved soonest since all Kenyans agree that the issues are contentious," said Karanja.

They said as the clergy, they played the prophetic role by warning Kenyans and that they would remain steadfast in doing so. Sixteen church leaders signed the statement.

And those accompanying Ruto were, Information Minister Samuel Poghisio and Assistant Minister Lina Jebii Kilimo, MPs Kiema Kilonzo, Victor Munyaka, Cyrus Jirongo, David Koech and Julius Kones.

Yesterday, some of the ‘No’ leaders including Dr Kones and Ms Kilimo claimed foul play and accused IIEC officials of rigging the referendum results.

However, IIEC Chair Ahmed Isaack dismissed the claims and said they had put in place measures to ensure the poll was free and fair.