Kenya’s main opposition alliance said it won’t challenge the results of last week’s disputed presidential election rerun in court and instead vowed to mobilize its supporters to press for a third vote.
“We won’t prevent citizens going to court” to try and nullify the outcome, Musalia Mudavadi, the co-principal of the four-party National Super Alliance, told reporters in Nairobi, the capital, on Tuesday. “As Nasa, we are not going to court.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta, 56, secured 98.3 percent of the vote in an Oct. 26 election that the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission said was free and fair, but was boycotted by Nasa leader Raila Odinga, who described it as a sham. The electoral agency said the turnout dropped to 38.8 percent from 79 percent in an Aug. 8 contest that also handed victory to Kenyatta and which the Supreme Court nullified after the electoral agency failed to disprove opposition claims of rigging.
The opposition’s decision to shun the legal process ups the ante in an already violent standoff that has seen police and opposition supporters engaging in running street battles in Nairobi’s slums and Odinga strongholds in western Kenya. There have been about 78 fatalities since the initial vote. Ethnic tensions have also flared between members of Odinga’s Luo community and Kenyatta’s Kikuyu group, raising fears of a repetition of the more widespread violence that ensued after a contested 2007 vote and claimed at least 1,100 lives.
Nasa’s plans include staging protests and economic boycotts, and setting up a national People’s Assembly comprising the leaders of civil rights, business and religious groups and labor unions to press for fresh elections. It will also establish a task team that will identify weaknesses in the government and press for reforms.
“This election must not stand,” Odinga said. “If allowed to stand, it will make a complete mockery of elections and might well be the end of the ballot as a means of instituting government in Kenya. It will completely destroy public confidence in the vote.”
We-The-People, a coalition of civil rights and religious organizations, labor unions, academics and other groups, described the political standoff as “an escalating crisis” that has been exacerbated, rather than resolved, by the election rerun.
“It has resulted in more disruption, death and violence,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday. “Kenya is in the grip of a massive security crisis, marked by impunity in state institutions.”
Reports of police using excessive force against protesters were deeply concerning and any officers who were found to have acted outside the law must be held to account, according to Robert Godec, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya.
“We appeal for calm in the coming days,” Godec said in a statement. “We call on all Kenyans to come together at this critical moment to reject the politics of hatred and division.”
In his acceptance speech on Monday, Kenyatta said he expected his victory to be challenged again in court and that he would only consider talks with the opposition after the legal process had been concluded. Odinga, 72, a former prime minister who failed to secure the presidency in elections in 1997, 2007 and 2013, said Nasa is open to dialogue if the terms of reference can be agreed.
Bond investors indicated that they view the declaration of Kenyatta’s victory as the beginning of the end of the crisis, with the yield on the government’s international bonds due in 2024 tumbling 16 basis to 6.16 percent since the announcement of the results.
Such optimism may be misplaced, according to Ben Payton, head of Africa at U.K.-based consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, who sees a strong likelihood of more violence in Odinga strongholds over coming days and further legal challenges to the legality of the election.
“Kenyatta will now rule over a country where huge swathes of the population believe he has usurped the presidency,” he said in a note to clients. “Even assuming Kenyatta survives in office, the government will face a loss of authority, particularly in western Kenya. Kenya’s ongoing electoral crisis demonstrates the reality that investors face an inherently volatile environment in East Africa’s largest economy.”
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