40 Cruis­ing for a cri­sis

The coun­try was braced for clashes as op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga called for mass protests in sup­port of his boy­cott of the 26 Oc­to­ber re­peat elec­tions

The Africa Report - - CONTENTS -

Aweek be­fore Kenya’s 26 Oc­to­ber elec­tion the sound of pres­sure valves hiss­ing was al­most deaf­en­ing, with grow­ing fears of vi­o­lence on the streets. Hav­ing urged his sup­port­ers to boy­cott the vote, leav­ing Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta to run un­op­posed, op­po­si­tion­ist former can­di­date Raila Odinga of the Na­tional Su­per Al­liance (Nasa) upped the ante by call­ing for mass protests on the day. The very same day Odinga made his ral­ly­ing cry – 18 Oc­to­ber – news broke that a se­nior mem­ber of Kenya’s In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral and Bound­aries Com­mis­sion (EIBC), Rose­lyn Akombe, had re­signed and fled to the United States amid death threats. In a state­ment to the press, Akombe cited fear, in­tim­i­da­tion and “le­gal ad­vice […] skewed to fit par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests” among rea­sons she be­lieved the elec­tion would not be cred­i­ble. Odinga’s ela­tion at the Supreme Court judge­ment to an­nul the 8 Au­gust pres­i­den­tial elec­tion due to ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties was soon tem­pered when he saw Nasa’s de­mands would not be met. At the cen­tre of th­ese was the call to re­place Ezra Chiloba, the IEBC’S chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, who had presided over the flawed elec­tions. Nasa made other de­mands, in­clud­ing stricter rules on the use of tech­nol­ogy in vote tal­ly­ing and the trans­mis­sion of re­sults, and the ap­point­ment of new re­turn­ing of­fi­cers in all 290 con­stituen­cies.

BOY­COTT STRAT­EGY

An­nounc­ing his with­drawal from the elec­tion to a packed press con­fer­ence on 10 Oc­to­ber, Odinga said: “The new elec­tion will be as cor­ruptly con­ducted as [8 Au­gust] and its out­come will in no way rep­re­sent the will of Kenyans.” Odinga trav­elled to the UK to ap­pear at Chatham House a few days later to drum up in­ter­na­tional sup­port for his cam­paign to re­form the elec­toral com­mis­sion. A con­fi­dent Odinga told re­porters: “The 26th is a no deal. You can take that to the bank.” Odinga’s goal is to de­liver a boy­cott of the polls in as many con­stituen­cies as pos­si­ble. Un­der the con­sti­tu­tion, vot­ing must take place in each of the 290 con­stituen­cies in or­der for an elec­tion to be valid. Michael Chege, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Nairobi, ex­plains: “Nasa will make it im­pos­si­ble for the elec­tion to take place in their ar­eas and go to court to say this is an in­valid elec­tion […]. This cri­sis is just be­gin­ning." Pres­i­dent Keny­atta and deputy pres­i­dent Wil­liam Ruto are criss­cross­ing the coun­try on a re­lent­less cam­paign sched­ule. The pair have swat­ted away Nasa’s calls for re­forms. The Nasa cam­paign is out of money and they are stalling, se­nior Ju­bilee of­fi­cials say. Par­lia­ment passed leg­is­la­tion in Oc­to­ber that makes it more dif­fi­cult for the Supreme Court to an­nul an elec­tion and stip­u­lates that if one can­di­date with­draws from a re-run of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the other one au­to­mat­i­cally wins. Ruto told re­porters on 17 Oc­to­ber that Odinga knows he will lose the re­run and is boy­cotting the vote to save face. “Odinga is run­ning away from a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat,” he said. “He has to find this ex­cuse and that ex­cuse and the other ex­cuse to try and jus­tify his exit.” The stage is set for wide­spread con­fronta­tions be­tween the se­cu­rity ser­vices and op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers around the 26 Oc­to­ber elec­tion as the mil­lions of peo­ple who voted for Odinga deal with be­ing locked out of the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. With con­cerns mount­ing, in­ter­nal se­cu­rity min­is­ter Fred Ma­tiang’i is­sued a ban on protests in the cen­tral busi­ness dis­tricts of Nairobi, Mom­basa and Kisumu. Kenya’s se­cu­rity ser­vices con­tinue to be lam­basted for their heavy-handed re­sponse to the un­rest that fol­lowed Au­gust’s elec­tions. Hu­man Rights Watch is­sued a damn­ing re­port on 15 Oc­to­ber that claimed as many as 67 pro­test­ers had been killed in Nairobi’s slums and in west­ern parts of the coun­try. Mark An­der­son in Nairobi and Pa­trick Smith in Lon­don

290

The num­ber of con­stituen­cies in Kenya, all of which must vote in or­der for the elec­tion to be valid

Riot po­lice charge to­wards a small group of pro­test­ers in Nairobi on 16 Oc­to­ber

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