Kenya ten­sions spike as oppn cries foul over elec­tion re­sult

Ri­val claims mas­sive hack­ing at­tack ma­nip­u­lated re­sults

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

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.

Dy­nas­tic ri­valry

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

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