Kenya braces for legal battle after Ruto is declared president-elect

0
  • Odinga will hold a press conference at 11:00 GMT
  • Calm returns to the streets of Kibera slum and Kisumu town
  • The election result disavowed by the majority of electoral officials

KISUMU/NAIROBI, Aug 16 (Reuters) – Kenya braced for a lengthy legal battle on Tuesday after William Ruto was declared the winner of a close presidential race despite objections from more than half of the electoral commission, stoking fears of political violence.

With memories still fresh of past post-election bloodshed in a generally stable Kenya, defeated candidate Raila Odinga is under local and international pressure to call for calm and seek to resolve any concerns over the election outcome in court.

The opposition veteran, who lost his fifth presidential bid, will address the media at 11:00 GMT, his spokesman said on Twitter.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

In the western town of Kisumu and Nairobi’s sprawling Kibera slum, Odinga’s two strongholds, calm returned to the streets after protesters fought police and burned tires overnight.

Businesses were open as usual in most of the country, and people in areas that voted overwhelmingly for Ruto were in a celebratory mood.

Monday’s dramatic events, which saw Ruto declared president by a slim margin as a split emerged in the electoral commission overseeing the Aug. 9 vote, raised fears of violence like that seen after disputed polls in 2007 and 2017.

African diplomats were among those calling for a peaceful resolution, adding their voices to those of the United Nations and the US Embassy in Kenya. Read more

“In my opinion, it’s over,” said an African diplomat. “Kenyans don’t want it (the electoral process) to drag on.”

The four commissioners who disavowed the election results also said on Monday the parties should seek a solution through the courts.

Another diplomat said: “I think all the messages (to Odinga) are going in the same direction. It would be crazy to repeat the same strategies as in 2017” – a reference to Odinga’s call for demonstrations of massive street after losing the last presidential election.

Then more than 100 people were killed after the Supreme Court overturned the result citing anomalies in the voting process. A decade earlier, more than 1,200 people had been killed in widespread violence following the 2007 presidential election.

ODINGA’S NEXT MOVE

Makau Mutua, the head of Odinga’s campaign think tank, said officials from his Azimio La Umoja (Declaration of Unity) alliance were discussing a plan of action.

“We are consulting among ourselves,” Mutua told Reuters by phone. “It’s a front-line matter…all options are on the table. No options have been ruled out at this time.”

He said the message sent by the four commissioners who disavowed the results was that “the chairman of the commission does not have the power to unilaterally decide on the final results of the election”.

Neither electoral commission chairman Wafula Chebukati, who declared Ruto the winner with 50.49% of the vote to Odinga’s 48.5%, nor the four commissioners who disavowed the results responded to a request for comment from Reuters.

Chebukati said in the official government publication that Ruto and his running mate, Rigathi Gachagua, were president-elect and vice-president-elect.

Ruto, the current vice president and leader of the Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) Alliance, had appeared to lead Odinga as Kenyans awaited the final election results.

Once in office, he will face an economic and social crisis in East Africa’s richest nation. Poor Kenyans already reeling from the impact of COVID-19 have been hit by rising global food and fuel prices, while a devastating drought in the north has left 4.1 million people dependent on food aid.

The 55-year-old had made Kenya’s class divisions the centerpiece of his campaign to become Kenya’s fifth president, promising to reward low-income “scammers”. Read more

ANXIOUS WAITING

In Kisumu, the mood was gloomy, with many shops closed and roads strewn with boulders and burnt tire marks.

Some locals said they were waiting for Odinga’s signal.

Nancy Achieng arrived Tuesday morning to find the wooden stall from which she was selling roadside food in the destroyed Kondele neighborhood.

“I lost the election and I also lost my business,” said Achieng, who had been selling beans, chapati and roasted corn there for two years. “I don’t even know where I’m going to get the money from (to rebuild).”

On the other side of the road stood a supermarket with broken windows.

Achieng said she may protest on Tuesday, depending on the type of statement from Odinga and her party.

“We need him to speak soon… there’s a lot of anxiety,” she said.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

Reporting by Duncan Miriri, George Obulutsa and David Lewis in Nairobi, Ayenat Mersie and Kevine Omollo in Kisumu Writing by James Macharia Chege Editing by Catherine Evans

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Share.

About Author

Comments are closed.