Kenya’s Odinga defies pressure to concede defeat

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga on Sunday called for a strike to support his claim to the presidency and accused the ruling party of “spilling the blood of innocent people”, despite growing pressure on him to concede election defeat.

The election commission on Friday declared incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta winner of the presidential poll by 1.4 million votes. International observers said Tuesday’s election was largely fair but Odinga disputes the results, saying it was rigged. He has not provided documentary evidence.

“Jubilee have spilt the blood of innocent people. Tomorrow there is no work,” Odinga told a crowd of around 4 000 cheering supporters, referring to the governing party. He promised to announce a new strategy on Tuesday.

Senator James Orengo, one of Odinga’s chief supporters, said the opposition would call for demonstrations.

“When we people call you to action, peaceful action, don’t stay behind,” Orengo told the crowd in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum. He also called for a boycott of Nation television and newspapers, Kenya’s largest independent media group, over their coverage of the disputed elections.

The rally, Odinga’s first public speech since Thursday, was a unequivocal message that he has no intention of renouncing his claim to be the winner of Tuesday’s vote despite calls from the international community for him to concede.

There have been deadly clashes between police and civilians in his stronghold areas. Presidential spokesman Manoah Esipisu blamed the bloodshed on protesters.

“The violent protests are unlawful,” he said in a statement on Sunday. “The police will not tolerate breaches of the peace; instead, they will protect the lives and property of Kenyans; and they will restore law and order.”

Reporters have seen police repeatedly fire tear gas and bullets to disperse crowds of people in slums. Police have also detained and physically attacked journalists.

There have been at least 24 deaths in election-related unrest so far, a rights group said on Saturday, including that of a nine-year-old girl. The Kenya Red Cross said on Saturday it had treated 93 injured people.

By Sunday the violence had largely abated, to the relief of Kenyans who feared a repeat of the carnage that followed 2007’s disputed election.

Around 1 200 people were killed then and 600 000 displaced after Odinga called for political protests that sparked ethnic violence. Regional trade was paralysed and Kenya’s economy – the region’s biggest – took years to recover.

Some Odinga supporters are convinced that victory was stolen from them in the 2007 and 2013 polls, both marred by irregularities and problems. Odinga contested both, and lost, and his supporters say they will not back down this time.

“We are sick and tired of these people stealing the country from us. We need to split this country in two,” said David Orwa, 44, his words hinting at the ethnic divide that underlies Kenyan politics.

Odinga is a Luo, an ethnic group from the west that has long felt neglected by central government and excluded from power. Kenyatta is a Kikuyu, a tribe that has provided three out of Kenya’s four presidents since independence from Britain in 1963.

Diplomats and regional leaders are urging Odinga, a former political prisoner, to concede. Their united stance leaves the 72-year-old opposition leader isolated if he chooses to maintain the allegations of election fraud and proclaim himself president.

“I want to congratulate Uhuru Kenyatta,” said a Sunday statement by Federica Mogherini, foreign minister for the European Union, which did over $3 billion worth of trade with Kenya last year. “In line with the African Union, the EU expects the opposition to respect the results and to use legal means available for appeals and complaints.”

A Western diplomat said allies were not interested in revisiting the type of power-sharing deals that ended the post-election violence a decade ago. That avenue was “not an option”, he said.

“If you have evidence that the election was rigged, produce it … Nasa has been changing its position in quite significant ways in the past week,” he said, referring to Odinga’s opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance. “Most of the stuff they are alleging is not accurate.”

Initially, the coalition alleged the electoral server had been hacked, and produced 50 pages of computer logs that security experts said were inconclusive at best.

They later said a secret source within the electoral board had passed them the true election results. That two-page document was debunked by the election commission, who pointed out basic mathematical errors.

Later, Odinga said paper forms from each polling station scanned and uploaded to the election commission website to support its electronic tally were fake. He has not produced alternative forms.

Regional leaders have already congratulated Kenyatta, the 55-year-old son of the country’s first president, on winning a second term.

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Reuters
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