Kenya’s Odinga sets conditions to take part in poll re-run

Kenya's Odinga sets conditions to take part in poll re-run
The National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential candidate Raila Odinga. Courtesy Photo.

Nairobi, Kenya | AFP | Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday sought the sacking of several poll commission officials and set other conditions for taking part in a presidential vote re-run in October after the landmark scrapping of last month’s poll won by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

On Friday, Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga created history in Africa by declaring Kenyatta’s victory in the August 8 election “invalid, null and void,” citing widespread irregularities in the electronic transmission of vote results.

It was the first time a presidential election result was overturned in the continent and followed three failed bids by the 72-year-old Odinga for the presidency — in 1997, 2007 and 2013.

“There will be no election on the 17th of October until terms and conditions which we have spelt out in this statement are met,” a combative Odinga told reporters.

He said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had set the new date after only consulting Kenyatta’s Jubilee grouping and not his National Super Alliance.

“We find this a contemptuous action,” he said. “It is Jubilee that decided on the date and not the IEBC.

“A number of the election officials should be sent home and some of them should be investigated and prosecuted for the kind of heinous crimes they committed in the last elections. Their names are known,” he said.

“These officials should not conduct elections.”

Odinga said all eight presidential candidates who took part in the earlier poll should be allowed to contest this time as well.

New election ‘no run-off’

“This is a not repeat of a presidential election where number 1 and number 2 goes for a run-off,” he said. “Therefore any Kenyan eligible to run can run.”

Odinga said the IEBC had not given the opposition access to its servers despite a Supreme Court injunction and called for a revamp of the system.

“Basically by law the technology system that is being used by IEBC should be accessible by law to everyone, all the stakeholders…” he said.

“We are not ready to participate in elections on October 17 without legal and constitutional guarantees. Because you cannot do a mistake twice and expect to get different results,” Odinga warned.

After the shock ruling, an enraged Kenyatta said he would respect the decision but lashed out at the judges, saying: “Every time we do something a judge comes out and places an injunction. It can’t go on like this… there is a problem and we must fix it.”

The 55-year-old president also branded the judges “hyenas” and “crooks”, sparking a strong reaction about his “veiled threats” which they called an “assault on the judiciary.”

The electoral commission has vowed to make “internal changes” ahead of the new vote, though its chairman, Wafula Chebukati, ruled out resigning himself.

The current crop of IEBC commissioners took office only seven months before the election, after their predecessors were forced to step down following widespread protests.

The previous commission had been tarnished by a corruption scandal and its handling of flawed 2013 elections, which saw a series of high-tech safeguards failing on election day.

The ruling has been hailed at home and abroad.

African Union chief Alpha Conde said it honoured Africa and showed that democracy was taking root, while the European Union’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini said it was a “strong demonstration of the independence of the Kenyan judiciary and the strength of national democracy”.