Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Post-vote Kenya braces as opposition leader set to speak

(AP) — Kenyans braced Tuesday as opposition leader Raila Odinga was making his first public statement since President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of last week’s repeat election.

Odinga and many supporters boycotted the election that Kenyatta won with an overwhelming 98 percent of the vote. Protests have killed at least nine people since the election, further exposing the divisions roiling East Africa’s economic hub.

Both business and religious leaders pleaded for calm in a country weary of political tensions. The head of a Kenyan business association, Nderitu Mwangi of the Hood Group, said companies have suffered big losses because of the turmoil.

The vote has left the country “grossly divided along ethnic and political lines,” The National Council of Churches of Kenya said.

Kenya’s election commission has said the turnout of registered voters in the Oct. 26 election was about 40 percent, compared with roughly twice that in August balloting that was nullified by the Supreme Court because of what it called “irregularities and illegalities.”

Kenyatta has said he expected new legal challenges from Odinga, whose petition alleging vote-rigging led to the nullification of the August vote. Kenyatta also said he would consider dialogue with the opposition after the outcome of any court proceedings.

Odinga, who dismissed the repeat election as a sham, remained on the ballot and still got 73,000 votes, or just under 1 percent. In August, he received 45 percent to Kenyatta’s 54 percent.

Voting did not take place in two dozen of Kenya’s 290 constituencies due to opposition protests, although the election commission cited an election law that says final results can be announced if the outcome is not affected by the tally in areas that didn’t vote.

Wafula Chebukati, chairman of the election commission, said before Thursday’s vote that he could not guarantee its credibility. Before announcing the results, however, he said he was confident it was a “free, fair and credible election.”

Odinga has said he will form a “resistance” movement to oppose the government, which has in turn accused opposition leaders of fomenting violence with incendiary rhetoric. He also said he wants another election to be held.

Odinga, who is from the Luo ethnic group, and Kenyatta, who is a Kikuyu, also faced off in a 2013 election similarly marred by allegations of vote-rigging. The opposition leader also ran unsuccessfully in 2007, and ethnic-fueled animosity after that vote killed more than 1,000 people and forced 600,000 from their homes.

Most of Kenya has been peaceful during the political standoff that has transfixed the nation; human rights groups say dozens of people were killed by police in unrest following the August vote.


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