Odinga’s Options Run Out as Fourth Bid to Lead Kenya Falters

Updated on
  • Opposition to announce next step to topple President Kenyatta
  • Legal challenge unlikely to succeed: law school head Lumumba

Odinga's Options Running Out as Fourth Bid to Lead Kenya Falters

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Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga’s chances of overturning the outcome of last week’s elections are fading, as he faces international pressure to take his allegations of vote rigging to court and the security forces crack down on his supporters.

The U.S., European Union and African Union have all urged Odinga to seek legal recourse if he wants to challenge the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s declaration of President Uhuru Kenyatta, 55, as the winner of the Aug. 8 vote. While Odinga is due to announce his next step on Wednesday, senior officials from his five-party National Super Alliance have said filing a lawsuit isn’t an option -- an indication they may resort to protest action to try and nullify the results.

Raila Odinga in Kibera slum on Aug. 13.

Photographer: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

Odinga’s claims that proper counting procedures weren’t followed and that the electoral commission’s computer systems were hacked have yet to be substantiated, according to Patrick Lumumba, director of the Kenya School of Law. While the courts are the only appropriate forum for challenging the election, the opposition knows it stands little chance of winning, he said.

“My view is that the electoral commission has done a commendable job,” Lumumba said in a phone interview. “I have no doubt the current administration was validly elected.”

Election Results

The Elections Observation Group, which comprises civil-rights and religious organizations and deployed 8,300 people to monitor the vote, said its parallel vote tallies from 1,692 polling stations were consistent with the official results. While election-observer missions from the AU, EU and the Commonwealth said the voting process was peaceful, free and fair, they’ve yet to pronounce on the count.

“I don’t expect Raila Odinga to concede,” said Ndung’u Wainaina, executive director of the International Center for Policy and Conflict in Nairobi. “With the court constituted in the way it is, he doesn’t expect any justice. He is going for massive mobilization of his supporters. We are likely headed for a protracted political action.”

A former prime minister, Odinga has failed on three previous attempts to win the presidency and in all those instances he alleged foul play. He’s now 72 and with the next elections five years away, he’s unlikely to ever secure the top job if his latest challenge is unsuccessful.

Opposition protests against the election results have been concentrated in slums in Nairobi, the capital, and the western opposition stronghold of Kisumu. The alliance says more than 100 people died in post-election violence, mostly at the hands of the security forces. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights put the death toll at 24, while the Kenya Red Cross said it confirmed 17 fatalities.

Police Toll

Nairobi police chief Japheth Koome said 10 people died and they were all armed criminals.

Kenya is the fifth-biggest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s largest exporter of black tea, and a regional hub for companies including Google Inc. and Coca-Cola Co.

Fears that the elections could spark a repetition of the chaos that followed a disputed vote in 2007 and claimed at least 1,100 lives brought Nairobi to a standstill last week, with residents staying home and the normally congested roads virtually devoid of traffic. Life appeared to be returning to normal in the capital this week, as most shops and markets reopened and public transport resumed operating.

The financial markets have shrugged off the possibility of protracted political turmoil, with the FTSE NSE Kenya 25 Index of stocks gaining on five of the past six days. Kenya’s dollar debt returned 1.3 percent last week, more than any of the other 84 countries in Bloomberg’s main index for emerging-market Eurobonds. The shilling has strengthened 0.2 percent since voting day.

Appeal Deadline

Odinga has until Friday to file a lawsuit to challenge the election results, which would be heard by the Supreme Court.

“Kenyan electoral problems are never about voting but results management,” said Dismas Mokua, an analyst at Nairobi-based risk advisory firm Trintari. “The electoral process was violated. The only way out of this impasse is for an independent forensic audit. Going to court means you are willing to live with the decision of the court.”

Since the opposition won most of the numerous court cases it filed before the elections to challenge voting and counting procedures, it would be inexplicable if it refused to take the legal route to contest the outcome, according to Ahmednasir Abdullahi, a Nairobi-based lawyer. Alliance lawyer Paul Mwangi and coalition advisers Adams Oloo and David Ndii declined to comment.

“I have no doubt in my mind that the Supreme Court is competent and staffed with people of integrity,” Abdullahi said. “In all fairness, if you look at the facts, the results were not systematically tampered with. Odinga has lost four times and never once conceded defeat.”

— With assistance by Samuel Gebre

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