Kenya: Re-run election disputed

Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga / AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA

On Monday, the results of the Kenyan general election were disputed by the main opposition leader, Raila Odinga, and his supporters in a repeat of what occurred after the original nullified election in August. Their grievances are based on the fact that no electoral reforms have been made following the August poll. The August 8 vote was nullified by the Supreme Court because of “irregularities and illegalities”. After a repeat was announced, scheduled for October 26, this was boycotted by Odinga who made claims that the re-run of August’s presidential poll was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has a petition pending.

On Wednesday, Odinga condemned the results of the re-run election, labelling it a ‘sham’, and calling for a second rerun vote. President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was declared the winner after both elections, has appealed for calm and promised Kenyans that “their neighbour will remain their neighbour” regardless of the ongoing political tension. Kenyatta won by 98percent, but with a voter turnout of only 40percent; less than half the figure recorded in August, due to the opposition’s boycott. Kenyatta, an ethnic Kikuyu, and Odinga, a Luo, previously faced off in a disputed 2013 election. While most of the country remained calm, the results announced on Monday sparked violent protests in some Odinga strongholds including the Kawangware, Kibera, and Mathare slums in Nairobi, as well as Kisumu in western Kenya. Looting and intermittent arson attacks were followed by a police reaction that killed several people. Around 50 are reported to have died in violence since Kenyatta was declared the winner of the election in August.

All this despite Odinga’s advice in his speech on Tuesday encouraging his supporters to resist with economic boycotts, peaceful protests, picketing and other legitimate/non-violent means.

Despite all of this, perhaps because of the human rights provisions entrenched by the 2010 constitution, Kenya has avoided a repeat of the ethnic-fueled violence after the 2007 election that killed more than 1,000 people. This has assured some Kenyans that institutions can peacefully resolve political grievances. Indeed, the nullification of Kenya’s August vote was the first time a court in Africa had overturned a presidential election. However, this situation could be prolonged into elections continuing for years if Kenya’s Supreme Court nullifies the second presidential election this year and orders a third vote. This seems quite possible as neither side seem willing to enter any dialogue or come to any agreement. Moving forward, it will be extremely crucial how this is dealt with in order to avoid further violence, and to ensure stability in the country.



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