Kenya vote in bal­ance as cri­sis deepens after Odinga quits

Marlborough Express - - WORLD -

KENYA: Kenya lurched deeper into po­lit­i­cal con­fu­sion yes­ter­day as a court rul­ing and a par­lia­men­tary vote ap­peared to ease Uhuru Keny­atta’s path to a sec­ond term as pres­i­dent, a day after his chief ri­val quit an elec­tion they were to con­test.

Keny­atta and Raila Odinga were due to face off in a re­peat elec­tion on Oc­to­ber 26, after the Supreme Court an­nulled their Au­gust bal­lot - in which the pres­i­dent was de­clared the win­ner.

But Odinga pulled out of the re­run on Wednesday, fu­elling doubts about whether it would be con­tested at all. Yes­ter­day’s in­ter­ven­tions by the ju­di­ciary and leg­is­la­ture added to the un­cer­tainty.

As po­lice used tear­gas to dis­perse op­po­si­tion pro­test­ers de­mand­ing elec­toral re­form, the High Court ap­proved a pe­ti­tion by Ekuru Aukot, who polled less than 1 per cent in the Au­gust vote, to con­test the sec­ond bal­lot.

The elec­tion board later is­sued a state­ment say­ing that all eight can­di­dates who com­peted in Au­gust would be on the bal­lot. It also said al­though Odinga had no­ti­fied them of his with­drawal by let­ter, he had not yet sub­mit­ted the of­fi­cial form to do so.

The de­vel­op­ments sug­gested that the sec­ond elec­tion would go ahead, with Keny­atta the likely win­ner against a plethora of weaker can­di­dates. No chal­lenger ex­cept Odinga polled more than 1 per cent.

Fur­ther mud­dy­ing the po­lit­i­cal wa­ters, par­lia­ment passed an elec­tion law amend­ment stat­ing that if one can­di­date with­drew from the re-run vote, the re­main­ing one would au­to­mat­i­cally win. The vote was boy­cotted by op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers.

The law aimed to en­sure Keny­atta could be de­clared pres­i­dent if he faced no chal­lengers.

The events stoked con­fu­sion among vot­ers and fears that po­lit­i­cally-driven vi­o­lence might es­ca­late. Months of po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty have al­ready blunted growth in East Africa’s rich­est na­tion, a long-time ally of the West.

‘‘There’s a real at­mos­phere of con­fu­sion and un­cer­tainty. There seems to be dozens of opin­ions of what should come next,’’ said Mu­rithi Mutiga, a se­nior Horn of Africa an­a­lyst for the global think­tank In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group.

Jus­ti­fy­ing his pull­out on Wednesday, Odinga said the elec­tion would not be free and fair and re­newed calls for the elec­toral board (IEBC), which he blamed for the pro­ce­dural ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties iden­ti­fied in the first bal­lot, to be re­placed.

Op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers yes­ter­day re­newed their protests for elec­toral re­form.

Demon­stra­tors lit bon­fires in Kisumu, an Odinga strong­hold in the coun­try’s west, while more than a thou­sand sup­port­ers marched through the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict in the cap­i­tal Nairobi. Po­lice used tear­gas to dis­perse them in both cities, wit­nesses said.

Ju­liana Otieno, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Oginga Odinga Hos­pi­tal in the city, said 17 peo­ple had been ad­mit­ted with in­juries suf­fered dur­ing the protests. A Reuters wit­ness counted at least five of them with bul­let wounds.

Kisumu’s po­lice com­man­der, Titus Yoma, said he had no in­for­ma­tion on the bul­let wounds and his of­fi­cers were still quelling the protests, which were cen­tred around two slums in the lake­side city. - Reuters

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