Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, the presidential candidate of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, address a news conference on the concluded presidential election in Nairobi, Kenya, August 9, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Amid fears that violence could accompany the outcome of Kenya’s presidential election held on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry urged Israelis in the country to be alert and stay away from large gatherings of people in the country’s cities, especially Nairobi.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta was running in a very tight race with his long-time rival Raila Odinga, who served as the country’s prime minister from 2008 to 2013.
The Foreign Ministry advisory comes amid some concerns that the result of this election could trigger the type of political violence that scarred the country after a bitter election in 2007. More than 1,100 Kenyans were killed in that violence.
The Foreign Ministry also called on Israelis in the country, both tourists and businesspeople, to stay away from the public parks in the main cities, and to refrain from attending any political gatherings.
Both Kenyatta and Odinga are considered friends of Israel.
Kenyatta visited Israel in 2016, the first Kenyan president to do so since Daniel Moi in 1994. During that visit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu characterized as “remarkable” the relationship between the two countries that goes back over 50 years.
Netanyahu visited Kenyatta in Nairobi a few months later on the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to Africa in some 30 years. Standing next to Netanyahu in Nairobi, Kenyatta said that it would be “foolhardy” for Africa not to cooperate closely with Israel, saying this would be “like an ostrich burying its head.”
Odinga, too, has a relationship with Israel, having visited here a number of times, the last time in May when he delivered a lecture at the Hebrew University and also visited the Western Wall, with pictures of him in a kippa and holding a Bible at the Wall circulated widely on social media.
On Twitter, Odinga wrote that “few know my history with this Holy Site. The Western Wall is the pulpit of the Temple of Solomon and is said to have been built over 5,000 years ago. The site is sacred to all three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – and to me it is a very strong symbolism of strength and unity. The story goes that you write your wish on a piece of paper, stick it on the wall and say a prayer and the message goes directly to God.”
Odinga, according to the website of Kenya’s The Star newspaper, was detained for six years without trial in the 1980s over a failed 1982 coup against then-president Moi.
“With a lot of time on my hands, I used to write down the many wishes I had for the people of Kenya,” the paper quoted him as saying. “Every time I visit, I take one of those wishes and place it on the [Western] Wall.”