Kenya opposition says it will challenge election in court

AP News
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Posted: Aug 16, 2017 1:10 PM
Kenya opposition says it will challenge election in court

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya's opposition will challenge the results of last week's presidential election in Supreme Court and wage a campaign of civil disobedience, its leader announced Wednesday, saying they intend to expose a "computer-generated presidency."

Raila Odinga told reporters that Kenyans won't willingly go along with "democracy's slaughter."

His comments had the potential to set off another wave of protests in the capital, Nairobi, and elsewhere that already have led to at least two dozen people shot dead by police since the Aug. 8 vote, according to one prominent Kenyan human rights group.

Odinga has claimed that the election results were hacked and rigged in favor of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who won a second term with 54 percent of the vote. Odinga claims the hackers used the identity of Christopher Msando, an election official in charge of the electronic voting system who was tortured and killed shortly before the vote.

Kenya's election commission has said there was a hacking attempt but it failed, and election observers have said they saw no signs of interference with the vote. The opposition has not presented any evidence to back up its claims of vote-rigging but it said Wednesday it would do so in court.

The opposition last week said going to court was not an option, but Odinga on Wednesday made it clear they had changed their minds.

"We will not accept and move on," he said. "We shall hold vigils, moments of silence, beat drums and do everything else to draw attention to the gross electoral injustices."

The opposition has until the end of Friday to file a petition challenging the vote results.

Odinga's court challenge after losing the 2013 election to Kenyatta was unsuccessful. Kenyatta won with just over 50 percent of that vote. No candidate's legal challenge against a presidential election in Kenya has ever been successful.

On Tuesday, the election commission said it was not yet able to provide all the forms that were used to tabulate the presidential election results, raising the question of how it came up with the tally it announced Friday night. The European Union election observer mission on Wednesday urged Kenyan authorities to promptly publish all results forms online.

The streets of Nairobi's populous slum of Kibera were empty ahead of Odinga's statements, with businesses closed as they awaited his announcement. The opposition stronghold has seen some of the worst clashes between police and civilians protesting the results after the electoral commission announced Kenyatta's win.

Despite the unrest in some areas over the past week, Kenya has appeared to avoid a repeat of the post-election violence a decade ago that left more than 1,000 people dead.

Also Wednesday, Kenya's Interior Minister Fred Matiangi stopped an attempt to de-register two civil society groups that had pointed out anomalies in the presidential election.

The government's National Non-governmental Organizations Board has said it de-registered the Kenya Human Rights Commission and called for the arrest of the directors of the Africa Centre for Open Governance. Both groups monitored the elections.

In a statement, Matiangi said a committee will be formed to look into allegations that the two groups had tax compliance issues and one was not registered. He ordered that no action be taken against the groups for 90 days.

Civil society activists said Kenya Revenue Authority officials and police raided the offices of the African Centre for Open Governance. Maina Kiai, a former expert for the United Nations on the rights to freedom of assembly and association, said Kenya's government was acting "like people who have stolen" elections.

Odinga said the actions against the civil society groups helped the opposition decide to take legal action.

"We had said we will not go court. But with the raid on civil society and determination to silence all voices that could seek legal redress like AFRICOG and the Kenya Human Rights Commission, we have now decided to move to the Supreme Court," Odinga said, adding that this is the chance for the court to "redeem itself."