NAIROBI : Kenyatta, Odinga clash over poll date

NAIROBI. – Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said yesterday his coalition would not participate in the re-run of a presidential election proposed for October 17 unless it is given “legal and constitutional” guarantees.

Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta responded by saying there was nowhere in law that required the electoral body to consult Odinga. The opposition also said it is planning to file dozens of challenges to results from races lower down the ticket, including legislative and local seats.

Odinga’s conditions for participating in the repeat presidential election include the removal of six officials at the election board. He wants criminal investigations to be opened against them.

“You cannot do a mistake twice and expect to get different results,” Odinga told reporters. “A number of the officials of the commission should be sent home, some of them should be investigated for the heinous crimes they committed.”

On Friday, Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga created history in Africa by declaring Kenyatta’s victory by 1,4 million votes in the August 8 election, “invalid, null and void”, citing widespread irregularities in the electronic transmission of vote results.

Kenyatta was not accused of any wrongdoing. The ruling, the first time in Africa that a court had overturned the re-election of a sitting president, was hailed by Odinga supporters as “historic”. Analysts have said it is likely to lead to some short-term volatility in East Africa’s biggest economy, but could build confidence in institutions longer term.

On Monday, the election board said it would hold new elections on October 17.

But Odinga said he wanted elections held on October 24 or 31 instead.

“There will be no election on the 17th of October until terms and conditions which we have spelt out in this statement are met,” a combative Odinga told reporters.

He said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had set the new date after only consulting President Kenyatta’s Jubilee grouping and not his National Super Alliance (Nasa).

“We find this a contemptuous action,” he said. “It is Jubilee that decided on the date and not the IEBC. A number of the election officials should be sent home and some of them should be investigated and prosecuted for the kind of heinous crimes they committed in the last elections. Their names are known,” he said.

“These officials should not conduct elections.” Odinga also said all eight presidential candidates who took part in the earlier poll should be allowed to contest this time as well.

“This is not a repeat of a presidential election where number 1 and number 2 goes for a run-off,” he said. “Therefore any Kenyan eligible to run can run.”

Odinga said the IEBC had not given the opposition access to its servers despite a Supreme Court injunction and called for a revamp of the system. Kenyatta rebuffed Odinga’s demands to the commission on the setting of the election date.

“There is no legal requirement that Raila be consulted. I was neither consulted. Kenya doesn’t belong to one man,” he said in a statement sent by his office.

Odinga (72) has lost the last three presidential elections – in 1997, 2007 and 2013. Each time, he has said the vote was rigged against him.

The opposition also plans to lodge 62 court cases contesting governorship, lawmaker and local seats, spokeswoman Kathleen Openda told Reuters.

At least 33 court cases were filed contesting election results before the presidential election was annulled, said Andrew Limo, spokesman for the election board. Others had been filed since but he did not have the updated figure.

Limo said the numbers had not yet reached the same level as during the 2013 elections, when the board received challenges to 189 results. The electoral commission has vowed to make “internal changes” ahead of the new vote, though its chairman, Wafula Chebukati, ruled out resigning himself.

The current crop of IEBC commissioners took office only seven months before the election, after their predecessors were forced to step down following widespread protests. The previous commission had been tarnished by a corruption scandal and its handling of flawed 2013 electiaons, which saw a series of high-tech safeguards failing on election day.

The ruling has been hailed at home and abroad.

African Union chief Alpha Conde said it honoured Africa and showed that democracy was taking root, while the European Union’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini said it was a “strong demonstration of the independence of the Kenyan judiciary and the strength of national democracy”. –

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