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Kenyan opposition leader urges boycott of new presidential vote

Patrick Meinhardt, AFP | Jubilee ruling party supporters in Nairobi celebrate the Supreme Court's decision to proceed with the re-run of the presidential elections on October 25.

In a shock decision last month, Kenya’s supreme court nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election, citing irregularities. But ahead of a new presidential vote on Thursday, supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga are already crying foul.


Odinga challenged Kenyatta's August 8 victory, claiming hackers had infiltrated election servers and manipulated the vote.

After reviewing the evidence, the country’s highest court agreed. Citing irregularities and possible illegalities – as well as the electoral commission's unwillingness to let court-appointed technicians scrutinise its servers – the Supreme Court took the unusual step of nullifying the vote and ordering a new presidential election to be held within 60 days.

The Kenyan opposition maintains that not enough reforms have been implemented to ensure that a new election would be more free or fair than the last. Odinga said he would not participate in another round of voting until the necessary changes have been made and called again on his supporters Wednesday to boycott the vote.

"What we do tomorrow: One, do not participate in any way in the sham election. Two, convince your friends, neighbours and everyone else not to participate," he told a crowd of thousands in Nairobi.

"If there is no justice for the people, let there be no peace for the government," he added.

Three Kenyans, including a human rights activist, had filed a petition with the Supreme Court to delay the vote until its credibility could be guaranteed, with the court due to rule on the postponement on the eve of Thursday's vote. But as the Supreme Court convened to review the complaint a series of dramatic events prevented it from achieving a quorum – meaning the election would go ahead as planned by default.

Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga appeared alone in the courtroom and said only he and one other judge had shown up for the hearing. Six judges are needed to render a decision.

Wafula Chebukati, the head of the election board, confirmed that the vote would proceed as planned. “The elections as scheduled will go on tomorrow,” he said.

>> Read more: Kenyan election board member flees to US, alleging death threats

One deputy chief justice was unable to attend the hearing after being targeted in a shooting last night in which her bodyguard was killed. Those in favour of delaying the vote were quick to suspect that the attack was linked to the vote.

“The opposition is already saying that was an attempt at intimidation,” said FRANCE 24’s Julia Speers, reporting from Nairobi.

Julia Steers reports from Nairobi

Outside the court, hundreds of women in white scarves gathered to call for peace amid fears of violence. Kenyatta supporters celebrated the news that the election would proceed while those backing Odinga gathered in Nairobi's Uhuru Park.

Benoît Hazard, a Kenya specialist and researcher at the National Centre for Scientific Research (Centre national de la recherche scientifique), was dire in his assessment of the current situation in an interview with FRANCE 24.

“The country today is [on the verge] of collapse,” he said.

Hazard observed that tomorrow’s election will likely be boycotted by half the country and may end up not being credible, either "technically [or] constitutionally".

Kenya specialist Benoît Hazard speaks to FRANCE 24.

The governor of Kenya’s Kisumu county, an opposition stronghold, said the people would be justified in launching a revolt if the presidential election goes ahead, given the lingering concerns over the credibility of another vote.

“If the government subverts the sovereign will of the people ... then people are entitled to rebel against this government,” Anyang Nyong’o told reporters on Wednesday.

>> Read more: Kenya election chief casts doubt on 'free, fair' poll

An opposition lawyer said any new presidential election would have no legitimacy because of a previous court ruling that deemed the appointment of certain electoral officers illegal.

“It would be illegal and unconstitutional for them to move ahead with the election,” lawyer James Orengo told media outside the Supreme Court.

The election's August 8 first round plunged Kenya into its worst political crisis since a disputed 2007 vote erupted in violence that left more than 1,100 people dead.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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