Kenya’s defeated presidential contender Raila Odinga rejected the election outcome on Saturday and said he would challenge it in court, because he sensed rampant illegality in the electoral process.
“We will therefore shortly move to court to challenge the outcome that the IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) announced,” Odinga told a news conference.
Odinga, who claim that “democracy was on trial in Kenya,” albeit admonished his supporters to steer clear of violence. “Any violence now could destroy this nation forever, but it would not serve anyone’s interests,” he said.
The former Kenya coalition government Prime Minister also stated that he would accept the ruling of the court.
His rival Uhuru Kenyatta, indicted for crimes against humanity, was declared winner of the election with a tiny margin, just enough to avoid a run-off.
Odinga’s camp had said during tallying that the ballot count was deeply flawed and called for it to be halted. But Odinga asked his supporters not to resort to violence. Odinga said he would have conceded if the vote was fair.
After a hard-fought presidential campaign, this Kenya is trying to avoid a recurrence of tribal violence that killed more than 1,000 people after its last election, violence its new president-elect stands accused of helping to incite.
The IEBC, Saturday, pronounced Uhuru Kenyatta the winner with 50.07% of the vote. His main challenger, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, refused to concede, citing what he called widespread fraud and irregularities.
Western governments commended Kenyans on holding peaceful elections but pointedly avoided congratulating the declared victor. The United States, which cooperates closely with Kenya on a number of issues, including fighting Islamic militants in neighbouring Somalia, had warned of consequences if Kenyatta won.
With the country desperate to avoid the violence that erupted after the last election, in December 2007, Odinga called for calm, vowing to challenge the result in court.
“Any violence now could destroy this nation forever,” Odinga said. “That would not be in anyone’s interest. Let us treat each other as brothers and sisters.”
Members of Odinga’s Luo tribe say they have been shut out of power for decades. Odinga’s supporters in the Nairobi slums of Kibera and Mathare said they were awaiting a signal from the prime minister’s Orange Democratic Movement to take to the streets, but he urged them to avoid violence.
Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister and son of the country’s first post-independence president, is under indictment by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He is accused of inciting followers to commit acts of violence after the last election.
His trial is scheduled to begin in July, and he has indicated he will attend it.
“We recognize and accept our international obligations, and we will continue to cooperate with all nations and international institutions in line with those obligations,” he said at a news conference. “However, we also expect that the international community will respect our sovereignty and the democratic will of the people of Kenya.”
Odinga also disputed the 2007 result, and he became prime minister under a 2008 deal on a national unity government.
On Saturday, he said there were “massive discrepancies” in the vote counting and complained that the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission wouldn’t allow a recount despite the small margin by which Kenyatta crossed the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff: about 8,000 votes out of 12.33 million cast. The turnout was 86%, the highest in the nation’s history.
“Nothing would have pleased me more if I’d lost fairly. But I have a duty and responsibility to protect democracy in this country,” he said. “The struggle for democracy has been very long, and we are not going to surrender it to the forces of darkness.”
The election commission’s chief, Issack Hassan, rejected claims that the results had been tampered with. International observers have described the vote and count as transparent, Reuters reported.