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Why Kenya Is Bracing for More Political Turmoil

A supporter of Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta salutes from the crowd in Nairobi.

A supporter of Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta salutes from the crowd in Nairobi.

Photographer: Luis Tato/Bloomberg
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After two presidential elections within three months, Kenya’s highest court has declared incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta the legitimate winner of the second vote on Oct. 26. But that hasn’t resolved the matter for the political opposition. “We consider this government to be illegitimate and do not recognize it,” said Salim Lone, an adviser to Kenyatta’s opponent, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The election period has been marred by violence and intimidation that the ruling party and opposition blame on each other. Protracted turmoil in East Africa’s largest economy would be felt across the region, particularly in landlocked Uganda and Rwanda, which rely heavily on Kenya’s ports and roads to access international markets.

The first election, Aug. 8, provoked complaints of rigging, which prompted the Supreme Court to annul a victory by Kenyatta and order a new vote. When the electoral commission failed to make changes Odinga considered necessary to ensure a fair vote, he withdrew from the Oct. 26 rerun and urged a boycott. With turnout just 38.8 percent of voters, compared with 79 percent in August, Kenyatta was declared the winner with 98 percent of the ballots. That result was also contested in the Supreme Court by a former lawmaker and two activists.