On Tuesday, Kenyan politician Raila Odinga said that the outcome of the August 9 presidential election, which he was adjudged to have lost to Deputy President William Ruto, was a “travesty” and that Kenya’s democracy faces a protracted legal crisis.
A day after four of the seven election commissioners indicated they stuck by their decision to reject statistics announced by electoral commission chairman Wafula Chebukati, he made his first comments on the result.
There have been widespread riots after contested elections in East Africa’s wealthiest country before, including the 2007 presidential election, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,200 people. This rapid turn of events has stoked new worries of widespread bloodshed.
As of Tuesday morning, peace had been restored to the streets after overnight clashes between Odinga supporters and police in the western city of Kisumu and the massive Kibera slum in the capital city of Nairobi.
“Our view is that the figures announced by Chebukati are null and void and must be annulled by a court of law,” said Odinga, a veteran opposition leader and five-time presidential candidate who was supported this time by departing President Uhuru Kenyatta.
When asked by reporters about the events of the previous day, he said, “What we saw yesterday was a travesty,” but he urged his followers to remain nonviolent. He urged people to not “take the law into their own hands.”
Before approaching the podium himself, Odinga televised the news conference of the dissident commission members. He remarked that he was not quite ready to reveal any concrete plans for legal action.
Raila Odinga can submit a petition to the Supreme Court by next Monday.
According to Juliana Cherera, the deputy chair of the electoral commission, on behalf of the four commissioners, Chebukati ignored objections voiced by other commissioners and improperly aggregated the results showing Ruto winning with 50.49 percent.
Given the close margin of 233,000 votes that separated Ruto and Odinga, Cherera’s claim that 142,000 votes had not been properly accounted for might have a significant impact on the outcome of the election.
Raila Odinga has been pressured at home and internationally to pledge to resolve any problems in the courts in the wake of new memories of post-election bloodshed in 2007 and again in 2017, in which more than 100 people were killed.
Odinga’s followers watched his remarks rejecting the results and asking for peace in a packed restaurant in Kisumu. The sidewalks and roads were peaceful outside.
There is no reason for protest because we have evidence that Ruto manipulated this event,” claimed businessman and Odinga supporter Justin Omondi.
However, the demonstrations overnight demonstrated how fast emotions may rise. On Tuesday, many stores in Kisumu remained closed, and the city’s roads were littered with huge stones and the blackened remains of burning tyres.
On Tuesday morning, when food vendor Nancy Achieng came at her roadside kiosk in the Kondele neighbourhood, she found it in ruins.
Achieng, who had run a business selling beans, chapati, and roasted maize from that location for two years, stated, “I’ve lost the election and I’ve also lost my business.”
Kenyan Eurobonds dropped after Odinga and the commissioners’ statements, but they were still up for the day after recovering from Monday’s steep declines.
At 1400 GMT, the 2024 dollar-denominated bond was trading at 88.5 cents on the dollar, up 1.86 cents from late last week’s price of almost 92 cents.
Once in office, Ruto will have to deal with a debt crisis, a deteriorating economy, and a growing social unrest. A terrible drought in the north has left 4.1 million people dependent on food help, and rising global food and fuel prices have struck poor Kenyans already struggling from the effects of COVID-19.
On Monday, during his acceptance speech, Ruto committed to serve as president for all of Kenya. After serving two five-year terms as president, Uhuru Kenyatta was unable to run again. Kenyatta had a falling out with his deputy, William Ruto, and threw his support behind Odinga.