Kenya’s Odinga to take poll dispute to top court

Kenya’s embattled opposition leader Raila Odinga vowed Wednesday to take his election rigging claims to court, while urging his supporters to protest peacefully against the “death of democracy”.

Appearing tense and drawn, the 72-year-old Odinga ended days of suspense over his plans to contest last week’s presidential poll which he claims was hacked and rigged in favour of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The veteran opposition leader and his National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition had previously said court was not an option, raising the spectre of further violent protests after 17 people were killed and scores injured over the weekend.

“We have now decided to move to the Supreme Court and lay before the world the making of a computer-generated leadership,” he told journalists.

He said the u-turn was driven by government attempts this week to shut down two leading rights organisations that had been contemplating taking the disputed election to court.

He also called for peaceful forms of protest, recalling that rights to demonstrate, strike and carry out acts of civil disobedience were enshrined in the constitution.

“We will preach peace… we will uphold our rights to assemble and protest. We shall hold vigils, moments of silence, beat drums and do everything else to peacefully draw attention to the gross electoral injustices … ” he said.

After a peaceful day of voting last Tuesday, Odinga and NASA cried foul shortly after ballot counting began, with a series of complaints about the electronic tallying system.

‘Democracy’s slaughter’

They claimed the system had been hacked, and an algorithm installed to ensure that as results streamed in, Kenyatta maintained an unwavering lead over Odinga of about 11 percent.

NASA has also complained that the electoral commission (IEBC) has still not provided thousands of scanned forms from polling stations meant to back up the electronic results.

The European Union observer mission on Wednesday called on the IEBC to “publish all results forms online promptly.”

The election was Odinga’s fourth and probably final shot at the presidency — and the third time he believes it was stolen from him. 

“For the third straight election in a row, the voice of the people has been stilled, and for the third time in a decade, the candidate who lost the election has been declared president,” he said.

“No one should believe, and especially not those behind this election fraud theft, that Kenyans are sheep who will willingly go along with democracy’s slaughter.”

After the 2007 vote, Odinga’s supporters took to the streets, and a resulting crackdown coupled with politically motivated tribal violence left over 1,100 dead.

In 2013 he challenged the presidential results in court and lost. 

“Accepting such a crime for the third election in a row would irredeemably entrench the triumph of anti-democratic impunity and the permanent death of democracy,” said Odinga.

Civil society attacks

Any legal challenge must be lodged by Friday and the Supreme Court will have two weeks to hear the petition and make its decision.

A legal petition can also be filed by members of civil society.

Two of Kenya’s leading rights organisations suggested this might be behind efforts this week to shut them down — citing tax and registration issues — but on Wednesday, the government appeared to back-pedal on the matter.

Interior Minister Fred Matiangi suspended action against the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) for 90 days pending an exhaustive review of their status.

Odinga said NASA was taking its appeal to the courts despite consistent rulings in the government’s favour during a series of pre-election petitions.

“The court can use this chance to redeem itself or, like in 2013, it can compound the problems we face as a nation,” he said.

The dispute has plunged Kenya into its worst political crisis since the 2007 post-election violence that laid bare decades-old political and ethnic grievances over access to power and land.

Three of Kenya’s four presidents – including Kenyatta and his father– have come from the Kikuyu ethnic group. The other was Kalenjin.

That has left the Luos – Odinga prominent among them – and other major ethnic groups feeling excluded from power and marginalised for over half a century. – Agence France-Presse

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Fran Blandy
Fran Blandy
AFP's deputy bureau chief for East Africa, based in Nairobi, Previously correspondent in Paris, Dakar and Johannesburg.

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