Sunday 22 September 2019

Kenyan opposition leader urges boycott of repeat presidential election

Raila Odinga greets the crowd as he arrives for a rally in Uhuru Park, Nairobi (AP)
Raila Odinga greets the crowd as he arrives for a rally in Uhuru Park, Nairobi (AP)
Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga arrive for a rally in Uhuru Park, Nairobi (AP)
Kenyan women gather outside the Supreme Court in Nairobi for a multi-faith demonstration calling for peace (AP)
Chief justice David Maraga at the Supreme Court in Nairobi (AP)

The leader of Kenya's main opposition party has urged his supporters to boycott a rerun of the country's disputed presidential election amid rising political tensions and fears of violence.

Raila Odinga urged his political coalition to become a "resistance movement" and called on them to boycott Thursday's repeat ballot.

"Do not participate," he said at a rally in Nairobi's Uhuru Park.

The country's Supreme Court on Wednesday failed to muster enough judges to hear a last-minute petition to postpone the elections.

Supreme Court chief justice David Maraga appeared alone in the courtroom and said only he and one other judge had shown up for the hearing. The shooting of one judge's driver the evening before raised fears about intimidation of the judiciary.

Outside the court, hundreds of women in white scarves gathered to call for peace amid rising uncertainty and fears of violence. Jubilant supporters of President Uhuru Kenyatta celebrated the news that the elections will proceed.

Hundreds of opposition supporters gathered in Uhuru Park, Nairobi, to hear Mr Odinga speak. Police had earlier banned the rally, but stood back and allowed it to take place.

The Supreme Court hearing was to hear a petition filed by three Kenyans, including a human rights activist, who urged the court to postpone the election, arguing that electoral officials have said they cannot ensure the polls will be free, fair and credible.

Harun Ndubi, a lawyer for the petitioners, suggested that some judges who did not attend the hearing may have violated their constitutional duties.

"The justices must forever be available," said Mr Ndubi, though he acknowledged that the deputy chief justice whose police driver was injured in a shooting on Tuesday evening may have been genuinely troubled.

"For the others, I don't buy their explanation," he said. "I don't see a credible or legitimate election happening tomorrow," he said, adding that the vote, if it occurs on Thursday, "would be a farce".

Busloads of opposition supporters arrived for the rally at Uhuru Park, despite the police ban. The mood was mostly cheerful and even celebratory. People danced, blew whistles and vuvuzelas, and banged drums. Orange caps and T-shirts with Odinga's initials, RAO, were handed out to the crowd.

Across the country, in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu, western Kenya, Odinga supporters suggested they would disrupt Thursday's elections.

The Supreme Court court shocked Kenya last month when it nullified Mr Kenyatta's August re-election, citing irregularities and illegalities and the electoral commission's unwillingness to let court-appointed technicians scrutinise its computer system.

Mr Odinga had challenged Mr Kenyatta's victory, claiming hackers had infiltrated the computer servers and manipulated the vote.


PA Media

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News