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Defiant Odinga vows not to back down over ‘stolen’ Kenya vote

‘We are not done yet. We will not give up’

NAIROBI: Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga gestures to thousands of supporters gathered in the Mathare area. — AP

NAIROBI: Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga vowed yesterday not to back down over an election he claims was stolen from him and urged his supporters to boycott work until he announces his strategy next week. The 72-year-old told his supporters to stay at home and out of the way of police, after the international community beseeched him to send out a message to try to halt protests which have left 16 people dead since Friday night.

However, he defiantly vowed to “remove” the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who official results show was re-elected by a large margin in last Tuesday’s election that pollsters had described as too close to call. “We had predicted they will steal the election and that’s what happened. We are not done yet. We will not give up. Wait for the next course of action which I will announce the day after tomorrow (Tuesday),” he told a heaving crowd of supporters in Nairobi’s largest slum, Kibera.

‘No Raila, no peace’

Kibera residents climbed on to roof tops and hung off trees to catch sight of Odinga, who was speaking for the first time since Kenyatta was declared the victor Friday in a poll he claims was massively rigged. “No Raila, no peace,” chanted the crowd, using the rallying cry heard after Odinga claimed a 2007 election was stolen from him. The results of that poll led to two months of protests and ethnic killings which left 1,100 people dead and 600,000 displaced.

Friday’s announcement of the election results sparked immediate protests in Odinga’s strongholds in western Kenya and Nairobi slums including Kibera and Mathare, which have left at least 16 people dead according to an AFP tally. Yesterday the flashpoint areas were calm, with signs of life returning to normal as shopkeepers cautiously reopened after two days of running battles with police, who in some cases fired live ammunition to disperse protesters.

Odinga’s National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition has insisted Odinga was robbed of victory through hacking and manipulation of an electronic vote tallying system. However calls for them to take their grievances to court, while Kenya’s foreign partners heap congratulations on Kenyatta, have left them isolated and under mounting pressure. The election was Odinga’s fourth failed shot at the presidency. In 2013 he said the election was rigged and took his case to the Supreme Court where he lost. This time his party officials have said court is not an option. “If he tells us to go on the streets, we will go on the streets. If he wants us to stay home, we will stay stay home,” said 25-year-old hairdresser Humpfrey Songole in Mathare.

‘Exercise restraint’

Seven of the dead were killed in clashes in the west of the country, which was also calm yesterday. “These are people killed in the confrontations with officers since Friday night,” said a regional police officer. Nine people died in the capital, including a young girl whose family said she had been shot in the back while playing on a balcony in Mathare as police opened fire on protesters. The Doctors without Borders (MSF) charity said on Twitter it had treated 54 wounded people in its clinics.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called on Kenya’s opposition to “exercise restraint” to ensure calm. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini also urged the opposition “to respect the results and to use legal means available for appeals and complaints.” In another blow to the opposition, local election observer group ELOG, which deployed 8,300 observers and conducted a parallel tallying operation, determined Kenyatta had won with 54 percent — the same figure given by the electoral commission.

‘Zero-sum game’
Odinga, an ethnic Luo who scored nearly 45 percent of votes to Kenyatta’s 54 percent, has a huge following notably among the poor who are drawn to his platform of more equitable economic growth. But ethnic grievance is also a key aspect of his appeal. Three of Kenya’s four presidents have been Kikuyu and the other Kalenjin, leaving Luos feeling excluded from power for over half a century.

Politics in Kenya is largely divided along tribal lines, and the winner-takes-all nature of elections has long stoked communal divisions. Critics say the faultlines that burst into the open in 2007 have not been adequately dealt with. “The reason elections have become a trigger for violence is the relationship between power and prosperity. It is a zero-sum game and winning becomes a life and death matter, hence losing is not an option,” the Daily Nation wrote in its editorial. – AFP

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