Saturday 17 March 2018

Kenyan election on a knife-edge as voters go to polls

Mike Pflanz Nairobi

Kenyans go to the polls in a knife-edge election today, with one leading candidate already warning over vote rigging and the other facing international criminal charges that risk isolating his nation if he wins.

Aides to Raila Odinga, who lost the last disputed polls in 2007, told reporters yesterday that government officials were campaigning against their team.

Mr Odinga (68) claimed the previous day that his supporters could lose out because of electoral commission technical shortcomings that limited his supporters' ability to vote. He said they included incomplete registration of voters in his strongholds, and he did not know "whether that is by design or omission".

Any warnings of rigging before the polling stations even open are incendiary in Kenya, where 1,100 people died after Mr Odinga's camp refused to accept results of the last election, which were widely believed to have been manipulated against him.

"We have documentary evidence that senior members of the civil service have been campaigning for our opponents," Eliud Owalo, Mr Odinga's campaign manager, said. "These are efforts to disenfranchise our support base, through intimidation. Our lawyers are studying the appropriate action to take."

Mr Odinga is neck-and-neck in pre-election polls with Uhuru Kenyatta, although neither man is predicted to win outright. If neither reaches a majority, a run-off will be held in April.

The International Criminal Court has indicted Mr Kenyatta (51), son of independent Kenya's first president, with crimes against humanity including murder over his alleged involvement in the violence after the last polls.

He denies the charges and has pledged to cooperate with the court to avoid Kenya becoming a pariah state. Mr Kenyatta faces pressure from some of his supporters to remove Kenya from the ICC's jurisdiction if he becomes president, even though it would likely trigger international sanctions. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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