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S. Sudan disowns controversial comments on Kenyan elections

August 9, 2017 (JUBA) - South Sudan government on Wednesday disowned comments in which a presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny urged Kenya’s opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga Jaramogi to concede defeat before the final results were announced.

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S. Sudan cabinet affairs minister Martin Elia Lomoro (Photo KT Press)

The cabinet affairs minister, Martin Elia Lomuro said comments attributed to Ateny were his personal opinions.

“As the government and the country, we have sent our representatives to participate in the polls as monitors, as part of the region and as a neighbouring country. And through our representatives and also from the media reports we are getting the election in Kenya is still continuing. The votes are still being counted. So how do you talk about concession when the results have not been announced?” asked Lomuro.

He added, “I think the comment [Ateny] made was a personal opinion. It does not represent the views of the government and the president of the Republic [of South Sudan]”.

The South Sudanese presidential spokesperson posted on Wednesday posted a comment urging Odinga, Kenyan’s main opposition candidate in the election to respect peoples’ choice.

"This is the bitterness of peoples’ choice going against yours. Raila should concede defeat and move on with his life,” wrote Ateny on his page, drawing protests from Kenyans and South Sudanese online.

Ateny’s comments attracted criticisms, with many questioning the source of his information yet Kenya’s Independent and Electoral and Boundary Commission (IEBC) was still tallying results it has received.

Observers interpreted Ateny’s comments to mean interference in the internal affairs of another country. Other expressed shock, saying such comments could endanger the life of South Sudanese in Kenya in light of recent xenophobic threats by some Kenyans calling for the deportation of South Sudanese.

Meanwhile, the South Sudanese presidential spokesperson removed the post and made clarifications disassociating the comments from his official work, saying his personal view was taken out of context.

“I was not requesting Raila Odinga to concede as my post was taken out of context. Rather, I was of opinion that the will of the people of Kenya be respected, if and when the votes were genuinely cast and counted. Yet, my view was purely my own as Ateny Wek Ateny, not necessarily representing the President’s views in this case,” Ateny later wrote.

He added, “While I cherish and adorn genuine democratic process, my fear was genuine that Kenyans should not be made to fight this time around. Otherwise, whoever is the winner of this 2017’s Kenya General Elections is purely Kenyan’s business. I am only praying for peaceful Kenya”.

Voting in Kenya’s general elections passed without incident on Tuesday but as provisional results began ticking up on the IEBC website, President Uhuru Kenyatta maintained a commanding lead with about 55% to Odinga’s 44%.

A 2007 post-election violence in Kenya left over 1000 dead and 600,000 displaced.

(ST)