World
Kenya's Odinga challenges election defeat in top courtPublish Date: Mar 16, 2013
Kenya's Odinga challenges election defeat in top court
  • mail
  • img
The outgoing prime minister refuses to accept the slim first-round election win by Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTO/Reuters
newvision

NAIROBI - Kenya's defeated presidential contender Raila Odinga filed a legal challenge to his election loss on Saturday in a major test of the country's democracy five years after a disputed vote triggered deadly tribal violence.

Shortly before, police outside the Supreme Court used teargas to break up a rally of around 100 Odinga supporters, who were urged by the outgoing prime minister to stay calm and trust in the law to resolve his complaint.

Odinga's petition threatens to extend the period of uncertainty shadowing east Africa's largest economy.

The outgoing prime minister refuses to accept the slim first-round election win by Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court over the 2007 bloodletting in which more than 1,200 people were killed.

The March 4 vote was largely peaceful by contrast, and Kenyatta declared it "free and fair" in his acceptance speech last Saturday, though he added that the electoral process could be made more refined and efficient in the future.

Kenya's electoral commission (IEBC) had promised a smooth election but the collapse of an expensive new electronic voting system led to a five-day wait for the winner to be announced.

Odinga's petition alleges widespread rigging and accuses the IEBC of inflating voter registration numbers and going ahead with the election aware that its systems were going to fail.

"These failures dwarf anything Kenyans have ever witnessed in any previous election," Odinga told reporters on the doorstep of his office in the centre of the capital Nairobi.

"Every mechanism and every instrument the IEBC deployed failed miserably. Its failure and collapse, on a catastrophic scale on the polling day, so fundamentally changed the system of polling and the number of votes cast."

Kenyatta comfortably beat Odinga in terms of votes won, 50.07 percent versus 43.28 percent, but only narrowly avoided a run-off after winning just 8,100 votes more than the 50 percent needed to be declared the winner outright.

The tight nature of Kenyatta's win has given Odinga allies confidence that they can force a run-off through the courts, though the petition calls for the whole process to be declared null and void.

By the time the petition was filed in the early afternoon, hundreds of Odinga supporters gathered outside the court, many wearing T-shirts with slogans such as "democracy on trial".

"I am not happy with the election results, since my rights have been stolen. President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta is not my choice," Florence Bolo, an Odinga supporter, said outside the Supreme Court. Others shouted: "Uhuru must go!"

"We Kenyans want justice and I am crying for the Supreme Court to look at this case as critical and come out with a fair judgement," said Hamsa Omondi, a 21-year-old street vendor.

Traffic was moving freely through Nairobi and there were no signs of further unrest in the capital.

Many had feared a repeat of the 2007 violence after this month's vote, and were relieved when that did not transpire.

But analysts say a swift, transparent resolution of the dispute will be critical to restoring Kenya's reputation as a stable democracy. Big Western donors worry about a nation seen as a vital ally in the regional fight against militant Islam.

Kenya's stock market, which surged 7 percent in the two days after the peaceful conclusion of the March 4 vote, then suffered three consecutive days of falls. Traders said the Supreme Court petition had unnerved foreign investors.

The IEBC has consistently described the vote as credible despite a series of technological glitches on voting day and during the tallying of ballots. The IEBC spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.

International monitors, commenting shortly after counting began, said the election was broadly credible up to that point. But the count went for five days, and monitors did not follow the entire count process, diplomats say.

Test for reformed courts

Odinga's petition names four respondents - the IEBC, its chairman Issack Hassan, Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto, who is also under ICC indictment for crimes against humanity over the 2007 bloodshed. Both deny the charges.

Odinga's attempts to nullify Kenyatta's victory will be the first significant test for Kenya's new Supreme Court, established under a constitution adopted in a 2010 referendum.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, appointed in 2011 to reform a legal system accused of serving the interests of the elite, will be under pressure to deliver a transparent verdict in a country where political tensions are more tribal than ideological.

Mutunga received death threats in the run-up to the vote but promised the judiciary would act without "favour, prejudice or bias" when handling election complaints. He invited the media to cover the proceedings live from the court.

Odinga's decision to contest the election outcome in the courts was a major departure from his response to the 2007 election outcome which he also described as rigged.

Odinga at the time summoned supporters out into the streets for peaceful protests, as he did not trust the judiciary to be fair. But violence quickly erupted between tribes backing competing leadership candidates and spread across Kenya.

Reuters
 

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Russia says new EU sanctions risk ending security cooperation
Russia said Saturday that new European Union sanctions targeting Russian intelligence chiefs over its role in Ukraine risked ending all joint cooperation on security....
Hundreds of thousands need food aid in Somali capital: UN
Over 350,000 people in Somalia's war-ravaged capital are in acute need of food aid as government and charities struggle to cope, the UN warned Saturday, with other cities also in crisis....
Obama, Central American leaders meet on child migrants
President Barack Obama meets Friday with three Central American leaders to try to get control of an humanitarian crisis triggered by a tide of child migrants crossing the southern US border....
More than 50 UK Catholic priests defrocked for sex abuse
More than 50 Roman Catholic priests in England and Wales have been defrocked for sex abuse since 2001, the Church's child protection watchdog revealed...
West Africa Ebola death toll
The death toll in West Africa's Ebola outbreak has risen to 660, with the number of cases surpassing 1,000, says WHO....
First images emerge of Air Algerie crash site
The first images of the Air Algerie crash site in Mali emerged Friday, showing a stark terrain littered with bits of a plane that appears to have been pulverised on impact....
Should government review powers of kings?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter