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December 18, 2017

US, UK in dialogue push to heal widening rifts

President Uhuru Kenyatta greets wananchi enroute to Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi./PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta greets wananchi enroute to Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi./PSCU

Western powers are pushing for national dialogue to heal the country after months of bloody and divisive politics that threatens to plunge Kenya deeper into a political crisis.

The push came just hours after President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn into office for a second term.

US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May congratulated Uhuru and his Deputy William Ruto on their inauguration on Tuesday but called for immediate talks to heal widening rifts.

Read: US congratulates Uhuru, hails Kenya for ending election process

Related: 'President for all': Uhuru reaches out to NASA leaders after swearing-in

“As part of the process of addressing these tensions and strengthening institutions, we urge Kenyans to join together to hold an immediate, sustained and open national conversation to heal divisions between communities,” US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

The calls came as opposition chief Raila Odinga declared that he too will be sworn in as President on December 12. The US said they are deeply concerned by the ongoing political tension and called for restraint from security forces.

The UK, on the other hand, said all Kenyans should recognise the significance of dialogue and healing after months of divisive politics.

The message was delivered by British Minister for Africa Rory Stewart who attended the swearing-in ceremony at Kasarani and the official inauguration luncheon at State House. “I hope all Kenyans will recognise the need for national dialogue and healing,” Stewart said.

The international calls for talks was recognition of months of divisive campaigns and turmoil that has pushed the country to the brink of chaos.

On Tuesday, there was police terror in Nairobi’s Eastlands area as police battled NASA supporters from entering Jacaranda Grounds. A seven-year-old boy was shot dead in the process.

But despite calls for dialogue, it also emerged that the international community was firmly behind Uhuru as the legitimate President.

The UK government, for instance, has formally invited Uhuru to the Commonwealth Summit in London next year. Many Western states did not congratulate Uhuru after the controversial October 26 rerun.

“The US congratulates the people of Kenya on the conclusion of the presidential election process, as well as President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto on their inauguration for a second term,” US said in a statement.

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