Kenyan President Apologizes Over Vote Fracas as He Urges Unity

(Bloomberg) -- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta apologized for comments he said may have offended people during last year’s disputed elections, as he urged politicians to help foster unity in the country.

Kenyatta’s comments reinforce the rapprochement that he and opposition leader Raila Odinga announced in March, when they agreed to work together to end political discord in East Africa’s biggest economy. Odinga contested the outcome of two presidential elections last year -- the first of which was annulled by the Supreme Court, while the second was boycotted by his supporters.

While Kenyatta didn’t specify what he’d done, he was criticized last year by observers for condemning the court’s annulment of the first ballot as a “judicial coup” and branding its judges “crooks.” At a campaign rally in September, he labeled Odinga a “witchdoctor,” according to footage broadcast by the Nairobi-based Standard Group.

“If there was anything I said last year that hurt or wounded you, if I damaged the unity of this country in any way, I ask you to forgive me, and to join me in repairing that harm,” Kenyatta said in a state-of-the-nation address in Nairobi on Wednesday.

Kenyatta and Odinga on April 30 announced the formation of a joint team to implement development programs in the country. They’re also considering a plan to reintroduce the post of prime minister and two deputies, as part of an initiative to boost political inclusion, the Nairobi-based Star newspaper reported April 24.

The post of prime minister was last held by Odinga from 2008 to 2013 as part of a deal to end two months of ethnic conflict after a disputed December 2007 vote that left more than 1,100 people dead. Kenya’s presidential system, under which the winner takes all, has been blamed for political tensions and post-election violence in Kenya, where controversy marred five of the six elections held since the advent of multi-party democracy in 1991.

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