The United States Monday appealed for calm in riot-torn Kenya and urged the prompt resolution of irregularities from last Thursday's presidential election. The State Department backed away from a statement Sunday congratulating incumbent President Mwaki Kibaki as the election winner. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The State Department is urging Kenya's main political parties to restrain their supporters and reach out to each other in peaceful dialogue amid post-election violence that has claimed well over 100 lives.
Early results from the December 27 voting had shown a big lead for opposition challenger Raila Odinga, and violence broke out over the weekend when Mr. Kibaki was declared the winner and quickly sworn into office for a new term.
In a talk with reporters, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the United States and others who followed the election have serious concerns about irregularities in the vote count, and that these issues need to be resolved promptly and through constitutional and legal remedies.
In the meantime, Casey called on the Kenyan people and the various political parties to refrain from violence and incitement.
"We call on the political parties in Kenya as well as the Kenyan people, to avoid violence and to, from among party leaders restrain their supporters who might be thinking about engaging in any kind of violent response," said Tom Casey. "We'd also like to promote and see a process of discussion among political party leaders. We'd like to see them reach out to one another, because ultimately resolving this issue peacefully and through legitimate constitutional and legal means is going to be in the interests of everyone, and certainly in the interests of democracy and development in Kenya."
In an unusual move, Casey distanced himself from a comment Sunday from a State Department official who told reporters the United States accepted the announced results and congratulated Mr. Kibaki.
Casey said he was offering congratulations to no one because of the concerns about the vote count, and said if anyone was suggesting that the United States knows the outcome or that the election was not in dispute, that person was "unfortunately in error."
European Union and other election observers initially said the election was free of fraud but later said the vote-counting process lacked credibility.