Odinga Files Court Petition Disputing Outcome Of Kenya Presidential Election

Kenya's defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga speaks during a press conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi on August 16, 2022. Photo by Tony KARUMBA / AFP
Kenya’s defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga speaks during a press conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi on August 16, 2022. Photo by Tony KARUMBA / AFP

 

Kenya’s defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga has filed an online petition to the country’s top court, his lawyer told AFP Monday, challenging the result of the August 9 election that handed victory to his rival William Ruto.

Odinga, a veteran opposition leader who ran with the backing of the ruling party, has rejected the outcome of the poll, branding it a “travesty”, after he narrowly lost to Ruto by around 230,000 votes or less than two percentage points.

“It has already been sent to them and they will see it soon,” said Daniel Maanzo, who is part of the 77-year-old politician’s legal team.

“We have hopes that we have made a good case and will win,” he said.

Paul Mwangi, who is also representing Odinga, told AFP that a physical copy of the petition would be filed before the Supreme Court’s 2 pm (1100 GMT) deadline.

Although polling day passed off peacefully, the announcement of the results a week ago sparked angry protests in some Odinga strongholds and there are fears that a drawn-out dispute may lead to violence in a country with a history of post-poll unrest.

Since 2002, every presidential election in Kenya has triggered a dispute, with this year’s outcome also causing a rift within the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that oversaw the poll.

Odinga, who was making his fifth bid for the top job, also approached the Supreme Court in August 2017, when President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of the presidential race.

‘Null and void’

The court annulled that election in a first for Africa and ordered a re-run which was boycotted by Odinga. Dozens of people died during a police crackdown on protests.

Judges now have 14 days to issue a ruling. If they order an annulment, a new vote must be held within 60 days.

Odinga, who has since buried the hatchet with Kenyatta, winning the president’s backing for his candidacy, said last week that the figures announced by the IEBC were “null and void and must be quashed by a court of law”.

The IEBC was under heavy pressure to deliver a clean vote after facing sharp criticism over its handling of the August 2017 election.

But in a shocking development shortly after the results were announced, four of the IEBC’s seven commissioners said the numbers did not add up, accusing chairman Wafula Chebukati of running an “opaque” operation.

Chebukati dismissed the allegations, insisting that he had carried out his duties according to the law of the land despite “intimidation and harassment”.

Legal experts are divided on whether Chebukati needed the commissioners’ backing to announce the results, with constitutional lawyer Charles Kanjama telling AFP there was “some ambiguity” surrounding the issue.

Odinga has previously said he was cheated of victory in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 elections, and the poll’s aftermath is being keenly watched as a test of democratic maturity in the East African powerhouse.

On the campaign trail, both frontrunners pledged to resolve any disputes in court rather than on the streets.

Since the results were declared, Odinga has commended his supporters for “remaining calm” while Ruto has taken a conciliatory tone and promised to “work with all leaders”.

Kenya’s worst electoral violence occurred after the 2007 vote, when more than 1,100 people died in politically motivated clashes involving rival tribes.

If the court upholds the results, Ruto will become Kenya’s fifth president since independence from Britain in 1963, taking over the reins of a country battling surging inflation, high unemployment and a crippling drought.

AFP

Kenya’s President-Elect Ruto Says ‘No Time To Waste’ After Victory

In this file photo taken on August 06, 2022 Kenya's Deputy President and presidential candidate William Ruto of Kenya Kwanza (Kenya first) political party gestures during the rally on the final day of campaigning at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi ahead of Kenya's general election scheduled for August 9, 2022. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)
In this file photo taken on August 06, 2022, Kenya’s Deputy President and presidential candidate William Ruto of Kenya Kwanza (Kenya first) political party gestures during the rally on the final day of campaigning at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi ahead of Kenya’s general election scheduled for August 9, 2022. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

 

Kenya’s president-elect William Ruto vowed Wednesday that his new administration would be transparent, saying there was no time to waste in meeting the “huge expectations” of Kenyans.

Ruto, who has served as deputy president for the last nine years, was on Monday declared the winner of the August 9 poll in a race against veteran politician Raila Odinga that went down to the wire.

“We will shortly be making steps to run a transparent, democratic but accountable government,” Ruto said after meeting with elected leaders from his Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) alliance.

“The expectations of the people of Kenya are huge and therefore we do not have the luxury of wasting any time,” Ruto said.

Kenya is one of the richest economies in Africa but is grappling with the fallout from the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine, with surging inflation and high youth unemployment.

“We are going to govern in a manner that no sector of Kenya is left behind,” Ruto added, saying no one would be excluded, regardless of political or ethnic affiliations.

Measures to make his new administration more accountable would include enabling ministers to be questioned in parliament and ensuring that public servants cannot work for political parties.

READ ALSOEgypt Judge Sentenced To Death For Wife’s Murder

‘A Travesty’

A general view of local daily newspapers with headlines reporting the election of Kenya’s 5th President-elect William Ruto, in Eldoret on August 16, 2022. (Photo by Simon MAINA / AFP)

Ruto appears to be moving ahead with his administration even though his defeated rival could make a Supreme Court challenge to the election results.

Odinga on Tuesday branded as a “travesty” the outcome of the largely peaceful poll which Ruto won by a margin of less than two percentage points.

The veteran opposition leader, who ran with the backing of his old foe President Uhuru Kenyatta, said the figures announced by the election commission were “null and void” and vowed to pursue “all constitutional and legal options”.

Any petition must be lodged by Monday with the Supreme Court, which then has 14 days to issue a ruling. If it orders an annulment, a new vote must be held within 60 days.

If there is no court petition, Ruto will take the oath of office in about two weeks’ time, becoming Kenya’s fifth president since independence from Britain in 1963.

Both Ruto’s camp and Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya coalition claim to control parliament after the election.

Results so far show the National Assembly split almost down the middle between the two coalitions.

However votes still have to be held in four constituencies because of issues on polling, and the allegiances of a dozen MPs who stood as independents will be key.

No presidential poll outcome has gone uncontested in Kenya since 2002, and Odinga says he was already cheated of victory in the 2007, 2013, and 2017 elections.

In August 2017, the Supreme Court annulled the election after Odinga rejected Kenyatta’s victory. Dozens of people were killed by police in post-poll protests.

AFP

Kenya Poll: Odinga Rejects Results, Vows To Pursue ‘Legal Options’

Azimio La Umoja Coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga reacts on stage during a campaign rally in Murang’a on July 23, 2022, ahead of Kenya’s August 2022 general election. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

 

Kenya’s veteran politician Raila Odinga on Tuesday vowed to pursue “all constitutional and legal options” after rejecting the outcome of last week’s election that handed the presidency to his rival William Ruto.

“I do not want to fully address our strategies going forward but… we will be pursuing all constitutional and legal options available to us,” he told reporters a day after the results were announced, without specifying if he would issue a court challenge

READ ALSO: Ruto Declared Winner Of Kenya Presidential Race

Odinga, who described the outcome of the August 9 poll as “a travesty” at Tuesday’s press conference, has previously claimed to have been cheated of victory in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 presidential elections.

Last week’s closely fought race saw Odinga lose to Ruto by a narrow margin of around 230,000 votes, sparking protests by his supporters in some areas as well as triggering a split within the electoral body overseeing the poll.

“What we saw yesterday (Monday) was a travesty and a blatant disregard of the constitution of Kenya,” the 77-year-old former prime minister said.

“We totally and without reservations reject the presidential results.”

The poll’s aftermath is being keenly watched as a test of democratic maturity in the East African powerhouse where previous elections have been tarnished by claims of rigging and bloodshed.

On the campaign trail, both frontrunners pledged to deal with any disputes in court rather than on the streets.

Violent protests nevertheless erupted in Odinga’s strongholds in Nairobi slums and the lakeside city of Kisumu on Monday evening, although the situation was calm Tuesday.

Odinga on Tuesday commended his supporters “for remaining calm and keeping the peace”.

“Let no one take the law into their own hands,” he said.

 

Kenyan Women Make History With Record Election Wins

Supporters of Kenya’s Azimio La Umoja Party (One Kenya Coalition Party) presidential candidate Raila Odinga react during a protest against the results of Kenya’s general election in Kibera, Nairobi, western Kenya on August 15, 2022. (Photo by Gordwin Odhiambo / AFP)

 

 

Kenyans have elected a record number of women to positions of power in this month’s polls, with the list including seven governors, three senators and 26 MPs, in a step towards gender equality.

The East African nation has long struggled to get women into politics, with men accounting for the overwhelming majority of elected officials and female politicians largely consigned to serving as one of Kenya’s 47 women representatives.

But the August 9 elections marked a breakthrough for female politicians.

In the populous Rift Valley town of Nakuru for instance, female candidates were elected to eight positions, including governor, senator and woman representative — with Susan Kihika, Tabitha Karanja and Liza Chelule claiming those victories.

“Now sit and watch and see what women can do in office,” said newly elected senator Karanja, who runs Kenya’s second largest brewery Keroche Breweries Ltd.

Governor-elect Kihika thanked the voters of Nakuru “for being progressive and electing three women to the leadership of this county”.

 

Supporters of Kenya’s Azimio La Umoja Party (One Kenya Coalition Party) presidential candidate Raila Odinga demonstrate over burning tyres in Kibera, Nairobi, after William Ruto was announced as Kenya’s president-elect. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

 

– ‘Broken barriers’ –
All three women belong to president-elect William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance party, with the country’s incoming leader hailing their wins.

“We celebrate the many women who have broken barriers to climb the political ladder. Best wishes as you embark on your new responsibilities,” Ruto said on Twitter on Saturday as results trickled in.

Kenyans voted in six elections, choosing a new president as well as senators, governors, lawmakers, women representatives and some 1,500 county officials.

With the exception of Ruto, all the presidential candidates had female running mates, including his main rival Raila Odinga, who picked former justice minister Martha Karua to join his ticket.

Women secured seven gubernatorial wins, more than doubling their 2017 tally.

They claimed the politically influential counties of Kirinyaga and Machakos as well as Meru, where former woman’s representative Kawira Mwangaza ran as an independent candidate and defeated her male competitors.

“Thank you for believing in me and in women leadership,” said Mwangaza.

“I am promising you that Meru will be the best county because there will be sustainable development projects,” she added.

 

A General Service Unit (GSU) truck of the Kenyan Police is seen in Mathare, Nairobi, on August 16, 2022. . (Photo by Marco Longari / AFP)

 

– Online abuse –
In addition to winning seven out of 47 gubernatorial races, female candidates claimed three out of 47 Senate seats up for grabs and 26 out of 290 MP positions.

Linet Chepkorir, 24, became the youngest female parliamentarian in Kenya’s history following her election as woman representative in the Rift Valley county of Bomet, barely a year after she graduated from university.

The victories capped a months-long election campaign that saw female candidates subjected to a barrage of online abuse, including aggressive sexist language, gender stereotyping, and sexual overtures.

The International Federation for Human Rights and the Kenya Human Rights Commission warned ahead of the poll that such tactics were “consciously deployed to prevent women politicians or candidates from participating in active politics”.

About 22.1 million voters were registered in a population of around 50 million. Nearly 40 percent of voters, or 8.8 million, are aged between 18 and 34, a drop since the last poll but still attesting to a vibrant youth contingent.

But observers say the record victories will likely embolden more women to enter the political fray and strengthen the push for gender parity.

According to Kenya’s 2010 constitution, each gender must have at least a third of seats in parliament.

But successive parliaments and governments have fallen short of the target.

Efforts to pass a law that would force the dissolution of parliament if the one-third threshold is not met have been repeatedly stymied by male lawmakers.

Buhari Congratulates Kenya’s Ruto On Election Victory

File photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated the President-elect of Kenya, William Ruto, on his victory in the East African nation’s General Elections.

In a statement signed by spokesperson Femi Adesina, the President commended the people of Kenya for the peaceful and transparent outcome of the elections, which once again demonstrates that the democratic process, values and principles remain the best way for the people to select their leaders and hold them accountable.

“President Buhari says Nigeria values Kenya as a strategic partner in the fight against terrorism and violence extremism, buoyed by a long history of friendship, economic and trade ties, and effective collaboration through international organisations such as the African Union, the United Nations and the Commonwealth,” the statement addded.

“While wishing Deputy President Ruto a successful inauguration and tenure in office, the President looks forward to more fruitful and robust engagements between the two countries on shared priorities such as enhancing peace and security on the continent, democracy, and greater economic prosperity and social development.

“The Nigerian leader also salutes President Uhuru Kenyatta for his statesmanship and exemplary leadership to the people of Kenya in the past nine years and the profound legacies of his administration on infrastructure, education, healthcare reforms and tourism as well as strong influence and support on regional security.”

Violent Protests Erupt In Parts Of Kenya Over Vote

Supporters of Kenya's Azimio La Umoja Party (One Kenya Coalition Party) presidential candidate Raila Odinga express their unhappiness in front of burning tyres in Kibera, Nairobi, on August 15, 2022 after William Ruto was announced as Kenya's president-elect.  (Photo by KABIR DHANJI / AFP)
Supporters of Kenya’s Azimio La Umoja Party (One Kenya Coalition Party) presidential candidate Raila Odinga express their unhappiness in front of burning tyres in Kibera, Nairobi, on August 15, 2022 after William Ruto was announced as Kenya’s president-elect. (Photo by KABIR DHANJI / AFP)

 

As news of Raila Odinga’s loss in Kenya’s presidential election filtered through to his stronghold of Kisumu on Monday, angry supporters streamed into the streets, hurling stones and alleging vote-rigging as police fired tear gas to disperse them.

The 77-year-old’s young supporters — who fondly refer to him as “Baba” or “father” in Swahili — told AFP they were furious to see Odinga lose his fifth stab at Kenya’s presidency.

A veteran opposition politician now backed by the ruling party, Odinga has not spoken in public since the results were announced, but has accused his opponents of cheating him out of victory in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 presidential elections.

The 2007 polls in particular — which many independent observers also considered deeply flawed — cast a long shadow over Kenyan politics, unleashing a wave of ethnic violence that pitted tribal groups against each other and cost more than 1,100 lives.

As the sun set on Kisumu, large numbers of protesters congregated on a roundabout in the western lakeside city, throwing stones and setting tyres on fire as they blocked roads with broken rocks.

“It was not free and fair. We were cheated,” 26-year-old Odinga supporter Collins Odoyo told AFP as he rushed off to join the crowd, barefoot and with a vuvuzela horn strapped across his back.

Many shops in Kisumu had closed early, fearing possible protests over the result, and at least one supermarket was looted as young men walked away with food and electronic goods.

“The government must listen to us. They must redo the election,” said Isaac Onyango, 24, his eyes streaming as police tried to defuse the demonstration with tear gas.

“You can’t steal from us!” shouted a young man in a balaclava wielding a club.

Another protester loading a rock into a slingshot yelled: “We will not surrender!”

‘Stop lying to Kenyans’

Many in Kisumu had eagerly anticipated an Odinga victory, seeing it as a rightful coronation for a leader long denied the throne.

Even with the contest neck-and-neck on Monday morning, most were unable — or unwilling — to contemplate any other outcome than their man taking home the win.

It was not to be.

Within minutes of president-elect William Ruto’s victory, the dusk sky over Kisumu was smeared black as tyres and wooden stalls were set ablaze and used to barricade off a major intersection, with protesters chanting “No Baba, No Peace”.

AFP correspondents reported that police fired live rounds as protests erupted in the Nairobi slum of Mathare where Odinga is popular.

And across town in Kibera, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, supporters demanded a re-run as they hurled stones.

“Baba’s vote has been stolen,” said motorcycle taxi driver Emmanuel Otieno.

“Stop lying to Kenyans, we know Baba won,” said another protester, Eliud Omolo, waving a banner supporting Odinga.

‘Keep the peace’

The mood was starkly different in Ruto’s Rift Valley bastion of Eldoret, which erupted in celebration even before the 55-year-old was declared president-elect.

“We are so happy that it’s one of our own… we are proud of our son,” teacher Winnie Ndalut told AFP as dozens of people paraded through the city carrying posters of Ruto.

“It is the victory of all the people who are at the bottom economically… We know that he will be the person who will uplift us,” she said.

Several thousand people gathered at one of Eldoret’s main intersections from noon (0900 GMT) onwards to watch the election results on a giant screen.

“William Ruto is going to be the president of those who lose and of those who win,” 34-year-old Laban Keter told AFP as he waited for the official outcome, urging Odinga supporters to “please accept the verdict of the people”.

“Let’s take this country forward by keeping the peace and accepting the winner of the election,” he said.

“It is a victory for all Kenya, there is no divide, we are all one family, we are all brothers, we are all sisters. Kenya is one,” said wholesaler Hillary Kebenei.

 

AFP

Ruto Declared Winner Of Kenya Presidential Race

 

Deputy President William Ruto was Monday declared winner of Kenya’s hard-fought presidential poll but the announcement was mired in controversy after several members of the election commission rejected the results.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati said Ruto had won almost 7.18 million votes (50.49 percent) in the August 9 vote, against 6.94 million (48.85 percent) for his rival Raila Odinga.

“I stand before you despite intimidation and harrassment. I have done my duty according to the laws of the land,” Chebukati said.

“In accordance with the law, I… hereby declare that Ruto William Samoei has been duly elected as the president.”

Shortly before his announcement, four out of seven IEBC commissioners said they could not recognise the results, raising rigging fears in the closely-watched poll in the East African political and economic powerhouse.

Ruto is a 55-year-old rags-to-riches businessman who had characterised the vote as a battle between ordinary “hustlers” and “dynasties” who had ruled Kenya since independence from Britain in 1963.

After the results were announced, he vowed to work with “all leaders” in Kenya.

“There is no room for vengeance,” Ruto said, adding: “I am acutely aware that our country is at a stage where we need all hands on deck.”

The outcome was a bitter blow for Odinga, the 77-year-old veteran opposition leader who had the weight of the ruling party behind him after forging a 2018 pact with outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta in a stunning shift of allegiances.

The days-long wait for the outcome of the race had already set the East African nation on edge.

But in a shock announcement, IEBC vice chair Juliana Cherera told reporters that she and three of her colleagues could not “take ownership of the result that will be announced,” calling the process “opaque”.

In this file photo taken on August 06, 2022 Kenya's Deputy President and presidential candidate William Ruto of Kenya Kwanza (Kenya first) political party gestures during the rally on the final day of campaigning at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi ahead of Kenya's general election scheduled for August 9, 2022. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)
In this file photo taken on August 06, 2022 Kenya’s Deputy President and presidential candidate William Ruto of Kenya Kwanza (Kenya first) political party gestures during the rally on the final day of campaigning at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi ahead of Kenya’s general election scheduled for August 9, 2022. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

 

“However we have an open door that people can go to court and because of the same we urge Kenyans to be peaceful because the rule of the law is going to prevail,” she added.

As confusion reigned, scuffles broke out at the IEBC’s heavily guarded national tallying centre in Nairobi, where some people were seen throwing chairs shortly before Chebukati’s announcement.

Although last Tuesday’s poll passed off largely peacefully in the regional political and economic powerhouse, memories of vote-rigging and deadly violence in 2007-08 and 2017 still loom large.

The IEBC had been under intense pressure to deliver a clean election after it faced stinging criticism of its handling of the 2017 election.

Disenchantment

Kenyans voted in six elections to choose a new president as well as senators, governors, lawmakers, women representatives and some 1,500 county officials.

Kenyatta, the 60-year-old son of the first post-independence president, has served two terms and could not run again.

The winner of the presidential race needed to secure 50 percent plus one vote and at least a quarter of the votes in 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties.

Observers say that with the race so close, an appeal to the Supreme Court by losing candidate Odinga is almost certain, meaning it could be many weeks before a new president takes office.

Turnout on polling day was lower than expected at around 65 percent of Kenya’s 22 million registered voters, compared with about 78 percent in the last election in 2017.

Observers blamed disenchantment with the political elite, particularly among young people in a country battling a severe cost-of-living crisis and a punishing drought that has left millions hungry.

Lawyer David Mwaure — one of the four presidential candidates along with former spy George Wajackoyah — conceded on Sunday, endorsing Ruto, whose party won a key gubernatorial race when Johnson Sakaja secured control of Nairobi, Kenya’s richest city.

In a historic first for Africa, the result of the 2017 election was annulled by the Supreme Court after Odinga challenged the outcome.

Dozens of people were killed in the chaos that followed the election, with police brutality blamed for the deaths.

Kenyatta went on to win the October rerun after a boycott by Odinga.

The worst electoral violence in Kenya’s history occurred after a disputed vote in 2007, when more than 1,100 people were killed in bloodletting between rival tribes.

 

AFP

Kenya Moves Closer To Results Of Tight Election Race

Supporters of Kenya’s Azimio La Umoja Party (One Kenya Coalition Party) presidential candidate Raila Odinga watch television as they wait for the results of Kenya’s general election on August 15, 2022.  AFP

 

Kenya was moving closer Monday to learning the outcome of its closely-fought presidential election after days of anxious waiting.

Deputy President William Ruto was leading with slightly more than 51 percent of the vote against 48 percent for Raila Odinga, based on official results from more than 80 percent of constituencies, according to a tally published by the Daily Nation newspaper.

Both men had on Sunday appealed for calm as the wait for the final results of the August 9 vote dragged on.

Polling day passed off largely peacefully, but memories of vote-rigging and deadly violence in 2007-08 and 2017 still haunt Kenyans.

READ ALSO: Kenyans Pray For Peace, Await Outcome Of Presidential Election

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is under intense pressure to deliver a clean poll in a country regarded as a beacon of stability in a troubled region.

Results must be issued by Tuesday at the latest, according to Kenya’s constitution.

Ruto, 55, is deputy president but is effectively running as the challenger after outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta threw his support behind his former foe Odinga, the 77-year-old veteran opposition leader making his fifth bid for the top job.

Kenyans voted in six elections, choosing a new president as well as senators, governors, lawmakers, women representatives and some 1,500 county officials.

Turnout was lower than expected at around 65 percent of Kenya’s 22 million registered voters, with observers blaming disenchantment with the political elite in a country battling a severe cost of living crisis.

The IEBC had faced sharp criticism of its handling of the August 2017 poll, which in a historic first for Africa was annulled by the Supreme Court after Odinga challenged the outcome.

Dozens of people were killed in the chaos that followed the election, with police brutality blamed for the deaths.

Kenyatta went on to win the October rerun after a boycott by Odinga.

AFP

Kenyans Pray For Peace, Await Outcome Of Presidential Election

Members of the Israel Church of Africa pray during their Sunday service about a peaceful post-election while waiting for the official results from Kenya’s general election in the informal settlement of Mathare in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 14, 2022. (Photo by Luis Tato / AFP)

 

Kenyans prayed for peace Sunday as they waited anxiously for the final outcome of a tight presidential race, with the two frontrunners neck and neck, according to partial official results.

As of Sunday morning, Deputy President William Ruto had scored 51.25 percent of the vote, reversing earlier gains for his main rival Raila Odinga, who had 48.09 percent, according to data from the election commission covering nearly 50 percent of constituencies.

Tuesday’s vote passed off largely peacefully but after previous elections sparked deadly violence and rigging claims, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is under intense pressure to deliver a clean poll and release results by 16 August.

Riot police were deployed overnight inside the commission’s heavily-guarded tallying centre in the Kenyan capital Nairobi after political party agents disrupted the process, hurling rigging allegations at each other.

The commission’s chairman Wafula Chebukati has accused party agents of delaying the tallying process by haranguing election workers with unnecessary questions.

More than a dozen civil society groups, trade unions as well as the Kenyan chapters of Amnesty International and Transparency International issued a statement Sunday urging calm.

“We call on all political candidates, their supporters and the public to exercise restraint. We must all avoid raising tensions that could easily trigger violence,” the group of 14 organisations said.

The poll pitted Odinga, a veteran opposition leader now backed by the ruling party, against Ruto, who was widely expected to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta until his boss joined hands with former foe Odinga in a dramatic shift of political allegiances.

 ‘Let us have peace’

Both candidates have pledged to maintain calm, with the memory of the 2007-08 and 2017 post-poll violence still fresh for many Kenyans.

At a church service in Nairobi on Sunday, Odinga, 77, recited the opening lines of the Peace Prayer of St Francis and said: “I want to become an instrument to bring peace, to heal, to unite and keep the hope alive in our country.”

Congregants in Odinga’s stronghold of Kisumu also prayed for a peaceful outcome, with 81-year-old bishop Washington Ogonyo Ngede telling his flock: “Don’t let politics divide us. We must remain united.”

“Because leaders come and go but the country of Kenya lives forever,” said Ngede, a lifelong friend of the Odinga family.

“Let us have peace,” he said to cheers and ululations from the gathering of some 300 worshippers.

Kenyans voted in six elections, choosing a new president as well as senators, governors, lawmakers, women representatives and some 1,500 county officials.

Lawyer David Mwaure — one of the four presidential candidates, along with former spy George Wajackoyah — conceded on Sunday, endorsing Ruto, whose party won a key gubernatorial race when Johnson Sakaja secured control of Nairobi, Kenya’s richest city.

‘Model for the continent’

The election is being closely watched by an international community that views Kenya as a pillar of stability in a volatile region, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken describing the country’s polls “as a model for the continent”.

“We encourage peace and patience as the vote tallying continues from the August 9 elections,” Blinken said on Twitter late Saturday.

Turnout was about 65 percent, much lower than the 78 percent recorded in 2017, a reflection, some observers say, of the disenchantment with the political elite, particularly among young people.

The winner of the presidential race needs to secure 50 percent plus one vote and at least a quarter of the votes in 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties.

If not, the country will be forced to hold a runoff within 30 days of the original vote.

Observers say that with the race so close, an appeal to the Supreme Court by the losing candidate is almost certain, meaning it could be many weeks before a new president takes office.

AFP

Early Results Put Kenya’s Odinga Slightly Ahead In Presidential Race

Supporters of Kenya's Azimio La Umoja Party (One Kenya Coalition Party) presidential candidate Raila Odinga, celebrate in the street ahead of the contested presidential election results in Kisumu, Kenya on August 12, 2022. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP
Supporters of Kenya’s Azimio La Umoja Party (One Kenya Coalition Party) presidential candidate Raila Odinga, celebrate in the street ahead of the contested presidential election results in Kisumu, Kenya on August 12, 2022. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

 

Kenya’s one-time opposition leader Raila Odinga is slightly ahead in the race for the presidency against the incumbent Deputy President William Ruto, partial official results showed Saturday.

Odinga has 52.54 percent of the vote against 46.76 percent for Ruto, according to figures issued by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in the early afternoon based on results from about 30 percent of polling stations.

Kenyans are still waiting for final results five days after the country, considered one of the most dynamic democracies in Africa, went to the polls on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: 42 Mali Soldiers Killed In Suspected Jihadist Attacks

Odinga, 77, is making his fifth stab at the top job with the support of his longtime foe, the outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta who has already served two terms and cannot run again.

Ruto, 55, has been deputy president for almost a decade but was left out in the cold after a pact between Odinga and Kenyatta in 2018 that stunned the nation.

The election commission on Friday acknowledged that the vote tallying was moving too slowly after appealing for the nation to be patient.

It also denied that its results portal had been compromised, insisting its systems were secure.

Kenyans had been left confused when television stations which have been providing rolling coverage of the election, suddenly stopped broadcasting provisional results on Thursday.

The election is being seen as a test of the stability of the East African powerhouse, which has seen past votes marred by rigging and deadly violence.

Although the long campaign was acrimonious and marred by disinformation, polling day passed off largely peacefully, with independent observers saying the vote was orderly although not without challenges.

The winner of the presidential race needs to secure 50 percent plus one vote and at least a quarter of the votes in 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties.

Kenyans Vote In Droves In Close-Fought Election Race

A group of voters argue about their position in the queue at a polling station during Kenya’s general election at St. Stephen School in the informal settlement of Mathare in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 9, 2022. (Photo by Luis Tato / AFP)

Kenyans lined up before dawn to vote in a high-stakes election Tuesday, with the East African powerhouse on edge as two political heavyweights battle it out in a tight race for the presidency.

The country is hoping for a peaceful transition of power after almost a decade under President Uhuru Kenyatta, but concerns about vote-rigging linger after past election disputes spiralled into bloodshed.

More than 22 million people, about 40 per cent of them under 35, are registered to vote in an election held against a backdrop of soaring inflation, a punishing drought and disenchantment with the political elite.

Deputy president and erstwhile heir-apparent William Ruto, 55, is running against Raila Odinga, the 77-year-old veteran opposition leader now backed by longtime rival Kenyatta after a stunning shift in allegiances.

After a vitriolic campaign, voting was generally smooth.

But some incidents of delays in opening polling stations and problems with electronic voter registration equipment were reported.

And in one area in Nakuru county in western Kenya, police fired tear gas after youths blocked a road with burning tyres.

 ‘Hope my life will change’

Ruto was among the first to vote in his Rift Valley stronghold on what he described as “D-day”.

Odinga, who is known as “baba” or father and is making his fifth stab at the presidency, later cast his ballot in the Nairobi slum of Kibera.

In his bastion in the lakeside city of Kisumu, the atmosphere was festive, with motorcyclists honking and blowing whistles.

Clara Otieno Opiyo, a 35-year-old vegetable seller who travelled before dawn to vote with her five-year-old boy strapped to her back, said she hoped her vote would ease economic pain for working-class Kenyans like herself.

“I came here at 4 am to vote, having a lot of hope and faith, but if my presidential candidate succeeds, my children’s schooling will be free, I will find work, and my life will change.”

Analysts have in recent days suggested that Odinga, a onetime political prisoner and former prime minister could edge past his younger rival.

If neither wins more than 50 per cent, Kenya would have to hold a run-off for the first time in its history.

 Tight security

Pressure is on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to ensure a free and fair vote in all six polls — for the presidency as well as for senators, governors, lawmakers, woman representatives and some 1,500 county officials.

On Monday, six IEBC officials were arrested and the commission suspended several local polls because of erroneous ballot papers.

Kenya’s international partners are closely watching the vote in a country deemed a beacon of regional stability. Diplomats say they are cautiously optimistic.

Both Odinga and Ruto have urged a peaceful election, but fears remain that if the loser challenges the outcome — as widely expected — there could be unrest.

Security is tight, with more than 150,000 officers deployed across the country of about 50 million.

The trauma of the 2007 poll, which was followed by politically motivated ethnic clashes that killed more than 1,100 people, runs deep.

Odinga’s challenge to the 2017 election result that saw then foe Kenyatta re-elected was met with a heavy-handed police response that left dozens dead.

In a historic first, the Supreme Court annulled the 2017 vote, citing widespread irregularities.

No presidential election outcome has gone uncontested since 2002, and there will be an anxious wait for this year’s results which are not expected for several days.

As neither Ruto nor Odinga belongs to the dominant Kikuyu tribe, which has produced three of the country’s four presidents, the election will open a new chapter in Kenya’s history.

 ‘New generation’

Ruto has painted the election as a battle between ordinary “hustlers” and “dynasties” — the Kenyatta and Odinga families that have dominated Kenyan politics since independence from Britain in 1963.

Some observers say economic pressure could vie with tribal allegiance as the big motivator for voters in a country where a third of the population lives in poverty.

Lawyers David Mwaure and George Wajackoyah — an eccentric former spy who wants to legalise marijuana — are also standing for president but are likely to trail far behind the frontrunners.

If Odinga wins, his running mate Martha Karua would become deputy president, the first woman to hold the post.

The new president will face challenges to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, youth unemployment, a $70-billion debt mountain and entrenched corruption.

Already battered by the Covid pandemic which threw hundreds of thousands out of work, Kenyans are now suffering from the Ukraine war, which has sent prices of basic goods spiralling.

“Our country is now full of corruption, we want someone to deal with the issue permanently,” said first-time voter Ibrahim Ahmed Hussein, a 23-year-old student, in Kibera.

“I am voting so as to choose a leader who will change this country totally. Now we want to see a new change for the new generation.”

AFP

Kenya Candidates Make Final Bid For Votes As Campaigning Closes

Posters for Azimio la Umoja (Quest for Unity) One Kenya coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga (L) and United Democratic Alliance Party presidential candidate William Ruto (R) are seen in Nairobi, on August 04, 2022. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)
Posters for Azimio la Umoja (Quest for Unity) One Kenya coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga (L) and United Democratic Alliance Party presidential candidate William Ruto (R) are seen in Nairobi, on August 04, 2022. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

 

The frontrunners for Kenya’s presidential election were set to make their final push for votes Saturday, capping months of frenetic campaigning ahead of the August 9 polls.

Deputy President William Ruto and Raila Odinga, a veteran opposition leader now backed by the ruling party, are fighting for the chance to lead the East African powerhouse as it grapples with a cost-of-living crisis.

Previous polls have been marred by violence and continue to cast a dark shadow over the country, where 22.1 million voters will now choose the next president as well as senators, governors, lawmakers, woman representatives and some 1,500 county officials.

The battle for votes has been dominated by mud-slinging, tit-for-tat claims of rigging and a freebie bonanza for supporters, who have been showered with umbrellas, groceries and cash for attending rallies.

After criss-crossing the vast country in recent months, the leading candidates will stage their final campaigns in the capital Nairobi under tight security, with Ruto speaking at the 30,000-seat Nyayo National Stadium and Odinga addressing a rally at Kasarani Stadium, which seats 60,000.

The two candidates had initially announced plans to speak at the Nyayo venue on Saturday afternoon, fuelling fears of a pre-election day showdown.

Lawyers David Mwaure and George Wajackoyah — an eccentric former spy who wants to legalise marijuana —  are also in the fray.

The bitterly fought race has sparked speculation Kenya may see its first presidential run-off, with many worried that a challenge to the result could lead to street violence.

Close race

A wealthy businessman with a rags-to-riches background and a shadowy reputation, Ruto, 55, was long expected to be President Uhuru Kenyatta’s successor, but lost ground when his boss — who cannot run again — joined hands with longtime rival Odinga in 2018.

Kenyatta’s endorsement has given Odinga, 77, access to the ruling Jubilee party’s powerful election machinery, but has also dealt a blow to the former political prisoner’s anti-establishment credentials.

Nevertheless, some analysts believe that Odinga will emerge the winner in a close race, with Oxford Economics highlighting the fact that he has the backing of “several influential political leaders” including Kenyatta.

Ruto has cast himself as “hustler-in-chief”, taking aim at the “dynasties” running Kenya — a reference to the Kenyatta and Odinga families, who gave the country its first president and vice-president.

He has promised to establish a “bottom-up” economy in a nation where three in 10 people live on less than $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank.

Odinga meanwhile has made the fight against corruption a key plank of his campaign, pointing out that Ruto’s running mate is fighting a graft case.

Evance Odawo, a 23-year-old tailor attending Odinga’s rally, told AFP: “We expect from the next president that the economy improves and the living standards too… we need jobs.”

New chapter

The election will open a new chapter in Kenya’s history, with neither candidate belonging to the dominant Kikuyu tribe, which has produced three of the country’s four presidents.

Both men have sought to appeal to the Kikuyu, who account for roughly six million votes, but analysts say the economic crisis will likely compete with tribal allegiances as a key factor driving voter behaviour.

With large ethnic voting blocs, Kenya has long suffered politically motivated communal violence around election time, notably after a disputed poll in 2007 when more than 1,100 people died, scarring the nation’s psyche.

The run-up to this year’s poll has been largely calm, with the police planning to deploy 150,000 officers on election day to ensure security and the international community calling for a peaceful vote.

Since 2002, every Kenyan presidential poll has been followed with a dispute over results. The Supreme Court annulled the 2017 election due to widespread irregularities in the counting process and mismanagement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

The IEBC, which is under pressure to ensure a free and fair poll, insists that it has taken all necessary precautions to prevent fraud.

 

AFP