Kenya opposition demands Odinga be ‘declared president’
Kenya’s main opposition coalition demanded Thursday that its candidate Raila Odinga be declared president, claiming it had evidence he had won an election that has already led to angry protests over fraud claims.
The latest allegations by the National Super Alliance (NASA) are likely to further ratchet up tensions in the country where a disputed 2007 poll left 1,100 dead.
While President Uhuru Kenyatta has an unassailable lead in near-complete provisional results, Odinga insists these are a “sham”, produced by a massive hacking attack on the electronic vote tallying system.
Foreign observer missions from the European Union, African Union, Commonwealth and the Carter Center urged party leaders to be patient and refrain from inflaming tensions, expressing confidence in the election commission (IEBC).
Shortly after they spoke however, one of NASA’s leaders Musalia Mudavadi gave a televised press conference unveiling new claims from “confidential sources” within the IEBC saying their servers showed Odinga was the true winner.
Mudavadi said he would provide data and screenshots showing that on the IEBC servers, Odinga had 8.04 million votes, leading Kenyatta on 7.75 million.
The IEBC public website, which is publishing results as they stream in electronically from polling stations, shows Kenyatta with 8.1 million votes, ahead of Odinga with 6.7 million.
According to the website, results are in from 98 percent of polling stations, however the IEBC has urged patience as it cross-checks results with scanned forms.
“We demand that the IEBC chairperson announce the presidential election results forthwith and declare Raila Amolo Odinga… as the duly elected president,” said Mudavadi.
Mudavadi however urged Kenyans to “remain calm at this point in time”.
In the Kondele neighbourhood of the western city of Kisumu — where protests erupted on Wednesday — hundreds of celebrating Odinga supporters took to the streets, banging drums and blowing vuvuzelas after Mudavadi’s announcement.
“We are happy … we need peace and we need the correct results,” said 35-year-old Anthony Karaba, as a police helicopter hovered overhead.
In Mathare slum in Nairobi, where the capital’s police chief said officers shot dead two men who had allegedly attacked them with machetes on Wednesday, scores of people streamed through the street shouting “Uhuru must go”.
– ‘Exercise restraint’ –
IEBC chief Wafula Chebukati had earlier urged parties to “exercise restraint” as results were being finalised.
“We are working hard to ensure that we get the final results within the shortest time possible. We expect that all the presidential results… will reach the national tallying centre by 12 noon tomorrow (Friday).”
The results would be validated and that a final decision would be announced “soon thereafter”, he added.
Odinga, 72, who claims elections in 2007 and 2013 were stolen from him, on Wednesday charged that hackers had broken into the IEBC’s systems and rigged the count.
They had used the log-in details of top IT official Chris Msando, found murdered and tortured last month, he said.
On Thursday many businesses remained closed and the streets were very quiet in the capital and elsewhere as the country held its breath.
“We find ourselves at a crossroads once again,” the Daily Nation newspaper warned grimly.
“The nation is sitting precariously on the precipice. The dispute over poll results is creating needless anxiety.”
– ‘Hacking was attempted’ –
The IEBC insists its electronic voting system — seen as key to avoiding fraud — had not been compromised, despite apparent attempts to do so.
“Hacking was attempted but did not succeed, that is our position,” said Chebukati.
Former US Secretary of State John Kerry, leading an observer team from the Carter Centre, expressed confidence in the integrity of the electronic system.
“We believe the IEBC put in place a detailed, transparent process of voting, counting, reporting and securing the vote, all of which lends significant credibility and accountability,” Kerry told journalists.
Polling officers have been sending results electronically to Nairobi, which are showing up in real time on a public website. But these need to be backed up with forms signed by them and party agents in each of the 40,883 polling stations.
Kerry said his observer team had witnessed party agents counting ballots and deciding together which were valid or not before signing off on final tallies.
“All of this provides an extensive traceable trail of agreement by many parties on the paper balloting process and therefore on the outcome,” he said.
Some 400 international observers were present for Tuesday’s vote.
Marietje Schaake, head of the EU mission said elections commission (IEBC) officials were “working around the clock. It’s important they have the time to do these procedures well.”
“We continue to urge everyone to be calm, to be resilient and to be peaceful,” she said.
Ghanaian former president John Mahama, leading the Commonwealth delegation, also urged Kenyans to give the IEBC “proper time and space to complete the results process with necessary due diligence.”
He too called for peace and calm.