Kenya chaos as re-run of elec­tion fails

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - AFRICA - MAG­GIE FICK

KISUMU: Kenyans who boy­cotted a re­peat pres­i­den­tial elec­tion voiced re­lief yes­ter­day af­ter au­thor­i­ties in­def­i­nitely de­layed fur­ther at­tempts to hold the vote in some op­po­si­tion ar­eas be­cause of the risk of vi­o­lence.

But while the elec­tion board’s de­ci­sion stemmed the prospect of more clashes, it also pushed to the fore a new ques­tion: Can Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta be de­clared win­ner of a vote in which bal­lots were not cast in more than 20 of 290 con­stituen­cies?

Two days af­ter polling in the rest of the coun­try, vot­ing had been due to take place in four coun­ties where res­i­dents blocked roads and clashed with po­lice as part of an op­po­si­tion boy­cott. The board ditched the plan late on Fri­day.

“I’m happy be­cause we need peace, we are tired of be­ing bru­tally killed by the po­lice,” said Henry Ka­hango, a fa­therof-three, in the western city of Kisumu.

Po­lice of­fi­cials have said re­peat­edly that their re­sponse to the po­lit­i­cal un­rest is pro­por­tion­ate.

Keny­atta has won more than 97% of votes counted so far, ac­cord­ing to a lo­cal me­dia tally. But with turnout es­ti­mated below 35% and the coun­try deeply di­vided, his hopes for a de­ci­sive man­date to lead east Africa’s rich­est econ­omy have been quashed.

Op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga pulled out of the con­test, a re­run called af­ter Au­gust’s elec­tion was an­nulled by the Supreme Court over pro­ce­dural ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties. He said the con­test against Keny­atta was not go­ing to be fair.

Odinga won 44.7% of the vote then, on a turnout of nearly 80%. In Thurs­day’s vote, Keny­atta faced six mi­nor can­di­dates, none of whom won more than 1% in Au­gust.

Deputy pres­i­dent Wil­liam Ruto, Keny­atta’s run­ning mate, sought yes­ter­day to de­clare vic­tory and dis­count the op­po­si­tion: “Ev­i­dently, it doesn’t mat­ter how pow­er­ful/pop­u­lar one or their party imag­ines to be, the re­peat elec­tions con­firm the PEO­PLE ARE SUPREME,” he tweeted.

The first le­gal chal­lenge came less than 24 hours later, when an ac­tivist filed a case seek­ing to nul­lify the elec­tion, which the op­po­si­tion re­jected as a “sham”.

Nei­ther of the two main par­ties, nor the elec­tion board, had any ap­pear­ances sched­uled yes­ter­day, leav­ing the coun­try wait­ing for the next step as the votes are counted.

If the ex­pected le­gal chal­lenges fail to clear a path out of the cri­sis, in­clud­ing a pos­si­ble or­der for an­other re­run, the re­sult will be the con­tin­u­a­tion of a pro­tracted and eco­nom­i­cally dam­ag­ing stale­mate be­tween the Keny­atta and Odinga camps.

The elec­toral saga is po­lar­is­ing the na­tion and slow­ing growth in what has been one of Africa’s most vi­brant economies, as well as a re­gional trade hub and a pow­er­ful se­cu­rity ally for Western na­tions. A decade ago, 1 200 Kenyans were killed in vi­o­lence af­ter a dis­puted poll.

In Odinga strongholds, such as Kisumu, res­i­dents had de­fi­antly blocked roads, clashed with po­lice, and in­tim­i­dated elec­tion of­fi­cials to pre­vent vot­ing on Thurs­day.

They ac­cused au­thor­i­ties of try­ing to “force” par­tic­i­pa­tion.

“This is pure op­pres­sion,” said Has­san Hus­sein, a Mus­lim com­mu­nity leader. “The law says if you want to vote, you vote, if not, you don’t.”

In a state­ment on Satur­day, the The In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral and Bound­aries Com­mis­sion con­demned what it said was ha­rass­ment by a mem­ber of par­lia­ment on “an IEBC of­fi­cial per­form­ing his du­ties” af­ter a video went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia, fur­ther stir­ring anger on­line.

The MP, Alice Wa­home, who is a mem­ber of the rul­ing Ju­bilee party’s coali­tion, told Kenya’s Stan­dard news­pa­per the re­turn­ing of­fi­cer had re­fused to sign off the nec­es­sary pa­per­work and was seek­ing to leave, hav­ing “snatched the forms from other agents”.

Anger at po­lice is flar­ing in op­po­si­tion ar­eas in western coun­ties, Nairobi slums and the coastal city of Mom­basa.

“Peo­ple from this re­gion are feel­ing iso­lated,” said Eric

‘They slapped me and beat me with a ba­ton’

Chi­tayi, a se­cu­rity guard in Kisumu. “We are feel­ing dis­con­nected.”

Pas­tor Fred Olando from Kisumu, de­scrib­ing how wa­ter can­non trucks and anti-riot po­lice had been pa­trolling day and night in his neigh­bour­hood: “We fear this gov­ern­ment and th­ese po­lice.”

Vi­o­lence has killed at least five peo­ple since Thurs­day’s vote. They died from gun­shot wounds and beat­ings by po­lice, ac­cord­ing to hos­pi­tal staff.

In the af­ter­math of the Au­gust elec­tion, at least 45 peo­ple died dur­ing a po­lice crack­down on op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers, ac­cord­ing to Hu­man Rights Watch and Amnesty In­ter­na­tional.

On Fri­day evening in the Nairobi slum of Kawang­ware, nearly 100 youths armed with ma­chetes in red T-shirts were seen – the colour of the rul­ing party – as a group of op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers clashed with po­lice.

In the western town of Mig­ori, an­other scene of clashes, a lo­cal jour­nal­ist said po­lice assaulted him yes­ter­day morn­ing. “They re­moved me from my home, I pro­duced my press card, and they slapped me and beat me with a ba­ton,” said Caleb King­wara, a pho­tog­ra­pher for Kenya’s Stan­dard news­pa­per.

The EU said in a state­ment: “It is im­per­a­tive se­cu­rity forces pro­vide pro­tec­tion to all cit­i­zens and avoid the ex­ces­sive use of force.” – Reuters

PIC­TURES: EPA

A sup­porter of the op­po­si­tion coali­tion the Na­tional Su­per Al­liance and its pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Raila Odinga re­acts in front of a burn­ing bar­ri­cade be­fore fight­ing with mem­bers of Mungiki, Kenya’s out­lawed sect whose mem­bers are mostly drawn from the Kikuyu tribe which Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta be­longs to, in the Kawang­ware slum in Nairobi, Kenya, yes­ter­day.

Sup­port­ers of the op­po­si­tion coali­tion the Na­tional Su­per Al­liance and its pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Raila Odinga face-off with po­lice of­fi­cers dur­ing their protest in the Kawang­ware slum in Nairobi, Kenya, yes­ter­day.

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