by David Musyoka
NAIROBI, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- A global conflict resolution think tank on Saturday called on Kenya's political leaders from both sides to demonstrate restraint and responsibility amid political violence in some parts of the East African nation.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) in particular urged opposition leader Raila Odinga who has rejected the presidential results in which President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner, to take any challenge of the outcome to the courts and not the streets.
The think tank said the 72-year-old Odinga should urge his supporters to remain calm and firmly denounce any violence against security forces.
"For his part, Kenyatta should be magnanimous in victory, reach out to opposition supporters and fulfill his pledge to run an inclusive government in his second term," the policy group said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
It called on security forces to avoid escalating the situation and display conflict-sensitive policing aimed at defusing tensions.
ICG said Kenyan voters displayed remarkable patience and enthusiasm on voting day, a welcome endorsement of democracy at a time of discernible regression in other parts of the continent.
"Yet this election is but one step on Kenya's path to greater stability and democracy. Odinga's rejection of the results, and the backing he received from his supporters, illustrates how deeply skeptical many Kenyans remain toward their public institutions," it said.
The think tank said the electoral commission will need to build confidence in its systems, while ensuring that logistical and technical preparations as well as proper civic education take place well ahead of the next polls.
"The next government must address key drivers of electoral violence, especially the ethnic divisions that continue to bedevil Kenya and its politics," ICG said.
Kenyans went to the polls on Tuesday to vote in a fiercely contested presidential election, which in the last week of campaigning saw the murder of a senior election official and claims of vote rigging.
Odinga has claimed the vote-counting system was hacked and manipulated; the opposition released its own vote tallies claiming Odinga had won by a wide margin.
However, the electoral body has denied these charges. Violent protests erupted in parts of Nairobi and the western town of Kisumu on Friday, resulting in nine deaths in Nairobi alone.
In Kenya in 2007, when the election result was disputed, more than 1,000 people died and about 650,000 people were displaced.
According to ICG, the next government must address key drivers of electoral violence, especially the ethnic divisions that continue to bedevil Kenya and its politics.
The think tank cautioned that threats remain and the road ahead is certain to be bumpy as it remains unclear how Odinga's supporters will react to his rejection of the results. Sustained protests are possible if he refuses to concede.