Kenya Pulls Back From Brink as Electoral Dispute Heads for Court

  • Opposition to continue peaceful protest against rigging
  • Odinga stance reduces electoral tensions, analyst Mokua says

Kenyan President Wins Second Term as Vote Disputed

Kenya pulled back from the brink of a violent electoral dispute after the main opposition buckled to international pressure and agreed to contest the outcome in court.

The country has been on a knife-edge since President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of an Aug. 8 vote that his main rival, Raila Odinga, said was stolen. There have been clashes between security forces and opposition supporters in slums in Nairobi, the capital, and in western Kenya since the results were announced, stoking fears of a repeat of more widespread turmoil that followed a disputed 2007 vote when 1,100 people died.

“Raila now has a unique opportunity to demonstrate at the Supreme Court that the election wasn’t credible, free and fair,” Dismas Mokua, an analyst at Nairobi-based risk-advisory firm Trintari, said by phone. “He has been able to reduce tension and anxiety, but at the same time created suspense about who has won this election. It’s a welcome move.”

Senior members of Odinga’s five-party National Super Alliance had previously said they would take their fight to overturn the election results to the streets because they didn’t trust the impartiality of the courts. Odinga backtracked after coming under pressure from the U.S., European Union and African Union to seek legal recourse.  A petition will be filed in court on Thursday, David Ndii, a technical adviser to the alliance, said on his Twitter account.

Eurobond Gains

“We have now decided to move to the Supreme Court and lay before the world the making of a computer-generated president,” Odinga told a packed press conference in the gardens of a house in the south of Nairobi. “This is just the beginning. We will not accept and move on. We will uphold our right to assemble and protest.”

The yield on Kenya’s 2024 Eurobond extended its decline after Odinga’s announcement, falling 3 basis points to 6.18 percent, the lowest level since June 2015. The shilling was little changed against the dollar.

“This is a positive for Kenya’s young democracy,” Ronak Gopaldas, an analyst at Rand Merchant Bank in Johannesburg, said by phone. “The decision has been largely expected by the markets. What is needed now is a quick resolution so Kenya can deal with its urgent priorities.”

The opposition alleged that an algorithm was introduced into the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission’s computer systems to ensure Kenyatta and his Jubilee Party maintained their lead throughout the count; that tallies from some polling stations exceeded the number of registered voters; and that results had been fabricated and altered. It also accused the commission of failing to provide forms from polling stations and regional counting centers to enable the verification of results, as required by law.

IEBC Denial

All forms have been secured, are being scanned and will be supplied to the opposition, according to Andrew Limo, a spokesman for the electoral commission.

“It’s their right to go to court,” he said by phone. “We didn’t declare a computer-generated president. It’s not true.”

The opposition says more than 100 people died in the latest 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. The police say there have been 10 deaths in Nairobi and they are still collating fatalities from other areas.

Odinga, 72, has failed in three previous bids to win the presidency in Kenya, the world’s largest exporter of black tea, and a regional hub for companies including Google Inc. and Coca-Cola Co., and in all instances alleged foul play. His attempt to overturn the result of the 2013 vote in court was in vain.

“How the case is handled by the courts will be very important,” said Emma Gordon, an analyst at Bath, England-based risk adviser Verisk Maplecroft. “There have been successful reforms reasserting the judiciary’s independence. The courts are much more impressive now than in 2013. There is more trust in the courts among opposition supporters.”

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