By Ben Geman - 03/09/13 03:18 PM EST
Secretary of State John Kerry is urging Kenyans to address grievances with the U.S. ally’s election result through the courts, not the streets, after a commission declared that Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta won Kenya’s presidential race by a tiny margin.
“Foremost in our minds is a desire to see the will of the Kenyan people expressed freely and fairly,” Kerry said in a statement Saturday.
The Kenyan electoral commission declared Saturday that Kenyatta, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), had avoided a runoff by winning 50.07 percent of the vote.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga, his main opponent, said Saturday that he would challenge the result in court but called on his supporters to avoid violence, according to Reuters and other news accounts.
The ICC in The Hague has charged Kenyatta with crimes against humanity for allegedly helping to organize and fund bloodshed that followed the country’s 2007 election. His running mate, William Ruto, has also been indicted.
Kerry’s statement makes no mention of Kenyatta or Ruto, but lauds the Kenyan people. “On behalf of the United States of America, I want to congratulate the people of Kenya for voting peacefully on March 4 and all those elected to office,” Kerry said.
“Across the country, Kenyans turned out by the millions to exercise their most fundamental democratic right. I am inspired by the overwhelming desire of Kenyans to peacefully make their voices heard, and I applaud the patience they have shown as votes were tallied,” Kerry said.
While the victory of the two men under ICC indictment could complicate the U.S. relationship with Kenya, a U.S. ally in the region, Kerry pledged continued support for the nation.
“These elections are an historic opportunity for the people of Kenya to come together to build a better future,” Kerry said.
“Since its independence in 1963, Kenya has been one of America’s strongest and most enduring partners in Africa. We stand with you at this historic moment and will continue to be a strong friend and ally of the Kenyan people,” he said.