Kenya tensions spike as oppn cries foul over election result
Rival claims massive hacking attack manipulated results
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta appeared headed for re-election yesterday but his rival Raila Odinga claimed a massive hacking attack had manipulated results, ratcheting up tensions in opposition strongholds. Police fired tear gas to disperse a few hundred protesters in Kisumu in western Kenya as well as in Nairobi’s Mathare slum, with Odinga’s supporters setting up burning barricades and blocking roads with debris in both spots, AFP reporters said.
With votes from 95 percent of polling stations counted, electoral commission (IEBC) results showed Kenyatta leading with 54 percent of the over 14 million ballots tallied against Odinga’s 44.7 percent. “These results are fake, it is a sham. They cannot be credible,” Odinga told a press conference in the early hours of Wednesday as partial results streamed onto a public website via an electronic tallying system aimed at preventing fraud.
The IEBC said the results could not be considered official until they were verified by original documents from polling stations. Odinga’s accusations, and the reaction of his supporters, again raised the spectre of electoral violence in Kenya, still traumatized by the memory of bloody postpoll clashes a decade ago which left 1,100 people dead and 600,000 displaced.
Odinga detailed accusations of a massive hacking attack on the electronic system, saying hackers had gained entry to the system using the identity of top IT official Chris Msando, who was found murdered and tortured late last month. “This is an attack on our democracy. The 2017 general election was a fraud,” said Odinga, claiming detailed evidence of the hacker’s movements. He would not say how he got the information, as he wanted to “protect his source”. The 72-year-old, who is making his fourth bid for the presidency as the flagbearer for the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, accused his rivals of stealing victory from him through rigging in 2007 and in 2013. “You can only cheat a people for so long,” he said.
‘Free and fair’
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati insisted the poll was “free and fair”. “As a commission we shall carry out investigations to establish whether or not the (hacking) claims are true,” he said, adding that the IEBC had a week to release final results.
Raphael Tuju, secretary-general of Kenyatta’s Jubilee party, urged the opposition to “look at the figures soberly” and accept the results. “You cannot claim that results are fake with respect to presidential vote and you welcome the areas where your governors and MPs have won convincingly. You have to accept the results however they come,” he said. Odinga urged his supporters to “remain calm as we look deep into this matter.” But he added: “I don’t control the people.” As his speech ended scores of supporters gathered at a roundabout in Kisumu and began burning tyres, while others gathered in the Nairobi slum of Mathare under a heavy police presence.
Police fired shots into the air and volleys of tear gas to disperse protesters in Mathare who set up burning barricades in some roads. “If Raila is not president, we can’t have peace,” one Kisumu protester told AFP. Resident Geoffery Omondi, 22 shook his head as protesters lit a new fire nearby. “It is very painful to watch. The problem is the IEBC who did not announce results well.” However the protests remained isolated, and in opposition strongholds where elections tend to stoke tensions. Nevertheless the normally traffic-choked streets of Nairobi remained deserted as the country held its breath over the results.
The contest between Odinga and Kenyatta was seen by pollsters as too close to call ahead of the vote. It is the second time the two men have faced off in a presidential election, a dynastic rivalry that has lasted more than half a century since their fathers Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Odinga went from allies in the struggle for independence to bitter rivals.
The men belong to two of Kenya’s main ethnic groups, Kenyatta from the Kikuyu, the largest, and Odinga from the Luo. Both had secured formidable alliances with other influential communities in Kenya, where voting takes place largely along tribal lines. In 2013 Kenyatta won by 800,000 votes. Kenyatta, 55, is credited with overseeing steady economic growth of more than five percent. However food prices have soared under his watch and several major corruption scandals broke out in his first term. —AFP
NAIROBI: Residents of the Mathare area of Nairobi, Kenya, take to the streets by blocking roads with burning tires to protest in support of Kenyan opposition leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga. —AP