Kenya's Western Allies Urge Talks to Break Elections Impasse

  • U.S., EU and Carter Center want talks to resolve deadlock
  • Kenya Supreme Court to begin hearing cases against Kenyatta

Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of last month’s vote, which Odinga boycotted.

Photographer: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images

Kenya’s key western trading partners and political allies urged talks to resolve a deadlock over the country’s presidential elections, as the nation’s top court began considering petitions challenging the outcome of last month’s vote rerun.

The Oct. 26 rerun of an annulled vote two months earlier has polarized the East African nation and exposed “deep tribal and ethnic rifts” that have characterized Kenyan politics in the past, the Atlanta-based Carter Center said Wednesday in an emailed statement. Its appeal for negotiations echoed similar calls by the European Union and the U.S. last week.

“Kenya is in dire need of dialogue and reconciliation,” the Carter Center said. “Though both President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga have made calls for peaceful co-existence, it is also important for the politicians to engage in dialogue to resolve this protracted political standoff.”

Kenyatta, 56, was declared the winner of last month’s vote, which Odinga boycotted after the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission refused to accede to his demands for staff and procedural changes. While the agency defended the election, the opposition dismissed it as a sham and said the final results were doctored. Voter turnout slumped to 38.8 percent from 79 percent in the August election that was nullified after the commission failed to disprove the Odinga-led opposition alliance’s claims of rigging.

‘Insecurity, Uncertainty’

The credibility of the Oct. 26 ballot was damaged by “insecurity, political uncertainty and lack of a fully competitive election,” the Carter Center. Attacks on the electoral commission and the judiciary “dimmed prospects of a successful election.”

The prolonged election standoff has undermined Kenya’s reputation as one of Africa’s top investment destinations and a regional hub for companies including Alphabet Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. While human rights groups say as many as 80 people died in election-related violence since the August vote, police say they’ve only recorded 19 deaths.

“There is an urgent need for dialogue between the two sides,” the European Union observer mission said in an Oct. 31 statement. “More than ever there is an onus on political leaders to find a way out of the current impasse.”

Two petitions have been filed at the Supreme Courts seeking to overturn Kenyatta’s second win. The petitioners claim the rerun was illegal and was neither free nor fair. Voting shouldn’t have proceeded after Odinga’s withdrawal and was marred by violence and intimidation, which forced its cancellation in some areas, the petitioners said.

There should be “immediate, sustained, open, and transparent national dialogue involving all Kenyans to resolve the deep divisions that the electoral process has exacerbated,” Robert Godec, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, said on Oct. 30.

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