Kenya’s leader urges peace ahead of vote as tensions rise

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta
Updated 22 October 2017
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Kenya’s leader urges peace ahead of vote as tensions rise

NAIROBI: President Uhuru Kenyatta urged Kenyans to remain peaceful ahead of Thursday’s fresh presidential election, while a witness said police shot and wounded at least one person amid a rise in ethnic tensions in the capital, Nairobi.
A resident of the low-income Lucky Summer neighborhood said tensions grew after members of Kenyatta’s ethnic Kikuyu community performed a ceremony involving the slaughter of sheep. Some residents interpreted it as a war ceremony. Others said it was a ceremony to recruit members of the Mungiki, a proscribed quasi-religious gang known for beheadings that has been used in past elections to attack supporters of the opposition, Sheila Kariuki said.
Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga went to the site of the ceremony and police shot at them when an argument started, Kariuki said. Running battles between stone-throwing residents ensued until local legislator Tom Kajwang arrived and calmed the Odinga supporters, Kariuki said.
Kajwang condemned the police for allowing the meeting to occur.
“This is intimidation that we won’t allow. This is aimed at provoking us and we will protect ourselves,” he said.
Area police chief Alice Kimeli confirmed that police had shot one person and said the group performing the ceremony had asked for police protection.
Kenyatta’s re-election in August was nullified by the Supreme Court, citing irregularities, and a fresh election was ordered. Tensions have increased ahead of Thursday’s vote, which Odinga has said he is boycotting because the electoral commission has not made the reforms he seeks.
One member of Kenya’s electoral commission has resigned, and its chairman has said it will be difficult to guarantee that the new vote will be credible.
Human rights groups have accused Kenyatta’s government of using police to clamp down on dissent. Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week said police killed at least 67 opposition supporters in demonstrations after the results of the August vote were announced.
Violence has followed some previous elections. During a prayer meeting on Sunday, Kenyatta said the country narrowly avoided plunging into civil war after the flawed 2007 election, when more than 1,000 people were killed. Kenyatta was charged with orchestrating that violence, but the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) dropped the charges while citing threats to witnesses, bribery and interference.
Without citing the election, Pope Francis on Sunday spoke of his hopes for Kenya, telling faithful in St. Peter’s Square that the nation was in his thoughts.
“I am following, with particular attention, Kenya, which I visited in 2015, and for which I pray so that all the country will know how to face the current difficulties in a climate of constructive dialogue, having at heart the search for the common good,” the pope said.


Priest in stable condition after stabbing at Montreal church

Updated 2 min 38 sec ago
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Priest in stable condition after stabbing at Montreal church

MONTREAL: A Canadian Catholic priest was stabbed in front of dozens of stunned worshippers as he was celebrating mass Friday morning at Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory.
Montreal police said a 911 call was placed at around 8:40 a.m. local time. When officers arrived at the landmark church, a male suspect was already detained by security guards.
Philip Barrett, who was sitting near the front of the church, said he saw a tall man, who appeared to be a Caucasian in his 30s, rise from a pew and quickly walk to attack Rev. Claude Grou, the Oratory’s rector.
“He walked over behind the altar and he seemed to strike the priest’s body,” Barrett said. “I think the priest fell down at that time. I do remember the priest was moving away from the man but it happened so quickly there was almost no time to react.”
The service was live-streamed on a Catholic channel. Video shows a tall man in a dark jacket and white baseball cap rounding the altar and charging at Grou as he thrusts his right arm toward the priest. Grou runs backward a few steps before the assailant pushes him into a banner.
As screams are heard in the background, a group of people run forward, surrounding and blocking the suspect.
Barrett said people quickly restrained the suspect, who did not struggle. He said the suspect didn’t speak or call out during the attack.
There was no other information immediately available about why the priest may have been attacked.
Police spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils says the victim suffered minor injuries to his upper body and was taken to the hospital.
The suspect was to be questioned by police Friday morning.
Barrett said Grou crumpled to the ground after the attack, but he appeared to be conscious and alert about 15 minutes later when paramedics wheeled him to an ambulance.
He said members of the congregation immediately began praying.
“We’re reassured, because when he left the oratory he was conscious and could talk, which we see as a good sign,” said Celine Barbeau, a spokeswoman for the church.
St. Joseph’s Oratory is among Canada’s largest churches, and pilgrims from all over the world are drawn to its domed roof and stunning architecture.
Barrett said that he, like the rest of the roughly 60 people present, was shocked that an attack would happen in a place he has come to see as a haven.
“I really find it’s a welcoming place,” he said. “I just hope that as a result of this, I mean, I can imagine they’re going to need more security, but I hope they can still keep that welcoming spirit.”