Raila Odinga called Kenya’s election results null and void, calling for calm

Raila Odinga called Kenya's election results null and void, calling for calm
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NAIROBI – Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga has declared the election results “null and void” and vowed to challenge them in court, ignoring calls to declare William Ruto the winner.

Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chair Wafula Chebukati on Monday declared Ruto the winner of last week’s election – a declaration marred by allegations of vote rigging and disagreements among commission members in a close-fought race.

“The figures declared by Mr Chebuka are null and void and must be crushed by a court of law,” Odinga told a news conference. “I would like to commend our supporters for remaining calm and maintaining peace and urge them to continue to do so. No one should take the law into their own hands.”

“We are pursuing constitutional and legal means and procedures to nullify Mr. Chebukati’s illegal and unconstitutional declaration,” he added.

Kenya’s Electoral Commission declared William Ruto the winner of the presidential election on August 15, but some senior officials disputed the results. (Video: Reuters)

His statement raised the specter of violence between his supporters and the victors, which has marred past elections. So far, aside from sporadic protests, Kenya has been quiet in terms of outcomes.

“It is a relief that Raila has decided to go to court and told his supporters to calm down and wait for the court’s decision,” said Meron Elias, an analyst for East and Southern Africa at the International Crisis Group think tank. “Despite the uncertainty, this is a reassuring decision.”

Odinga’s announcement could trigger a repeat of Kenya’s 2017 election results when his campaign challenged incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in the Supreme Court, which declared that vote invalid.

William Ruto declared winner of Kenya’s presidential election

Kenyatta still won the election, however, after Odinga told his supporters not to vote, citing distrust in the electoral body. The period was marred by violent street protests and human rights abuses.

On Monday afternoon, as the country awaited election results, Saitabao Ole Kanchori, one of Odinga’s top electoral officials, said they had reported that the electoral system had been “infiltrated and hacked” and that “some of the IEBC officials committed electoral crimes.”

Minutes before the results were announced, four of Kenya’s seven election commissioners said they would not stand by them. In a press conference on Tuesday, they said the results were announced by the chairman before commissioners had a chance to consult on the tabulation and objections raised by all parties.

“The problem we have is with the process,” Commissioner Justus Nyang’ya said before Odinga’s press conference. “If it is not determined by the commissioners, it remains the responsibility, role and responsibility of only one person in the boardroom.”

Ruto’s victory announcement on Monday sparked celebrations across the country from his supporters. In Ngong Town, on the outskirts of Nairobi, drivers honked their horns and lined the streets as they celebrated. Meanwhile, in Ruto’s hometown of Sugoi, people finally celebrated.

In the western Kenyan city of Kisumu, an Odinga support base, protesters briefly burned tires in the streets, blocking roads with stones before police dispersed them.

Kenyans are heading to the polls in a tightly contested, closely watched election

This is expected to be Odinga’s last attempt at the presidency. It was the 77-year-old’s fifth attempt at the top job.

The country’s most serious election violence occurred with Odinga narrowly losing to Mwai Kibaki in 2007 – amid allegations of vote rigging. More than 1,000 people have been killed and more than 5,000 displaced in the post-election violence.

In Kibera, a Nairobi slum considered a stronghold for Odinga, crowds that had gathered in previous days to watch the live broadcast before the results dispersed. “The announcement was disappointing; Whatever Odinga says we will do, he is our leader. We trust his judgment for the way forward,” said Job Owino, a supporter.

Mathare resident Mercy Wanjiru, 30, who was displaced during the 2007 post-election violence, said she was happy with Ruto’s victory and hoped Odinga would concede to avoid a repeat of the violence.

“We have a country to build,” he said. “Now is the time to heal and move on.”

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