Kenya’s defeated opposition coalition has vowed they would not halt their bid to overturn a “sham” election result, which sparked violent protests that have left 11 people dead. Protests flared in opposition bastions yesterday as soon as President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the victor on Friday night after an election his rival Raila Odinga claimed was massively rigged.
Kenya is no stranger to post-election violence, and scars still run deep from a disputed 2007 vote which led to two months of ethno-political clashes, leaving 1,100 dead and 600,000 displaced. However protests remained isolated Saturday, with several hundred demonstrators engaging in running battles with police who quickly dispersed what Interior Minister Fred Matiangi referred to as “criminal elements”.
Eight bodies have been taken to the Nairobi city morgue, most of them with gunshot wounds, from the protest-hit slums of Mathare, Kibera and Kawangware since Friday night, a senior police official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Last morning, an AFP photographer saw the body of a young girl whose family said she had been shot in the back while watching the protests from their balcony in Mathare.
A police officer said a man had been shot dead in a demonstration in the southwestern town of Siaya and local government official Wilson Njega confirmed one person had been shot dead outside Kisumu in protests. At the hospital Truphena Achieng said his brother had been shot and injured “and yet he was just standing outside our house where people were demonstrating … we don’t know why police were shooting.”
The Doctors without Borders (MSF) charity said on Twitter that it had treated 54 wounded in its clinics. The opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) has not laid out its plans, but has refused to take its grievances to court and said Saturday they would not back down. “We will not be cowed, we will not relent,” NASA official Johnson Muthama told reporters, describing a police crackdown on protests as an effort to force the coalition “into submission”.
Muthama claimed that some 100 people had been killed, without providing evidence. According to an AFP tally, 17 people have died in election-related violence since Wednesday. Matiangi denied there had been any casualties, and said police had clamped down on “erratic incidents of lawlessness,” adding the government would stop at nothing to protect citizens.
“The police have not used live bullets on any peaceful protesters,” he said. Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged police to show restraint. Odinga, 72, has not yet addressed his supporters after losing his fourth shot at the presidency. He believes elections in 2007, 2013 and now 2017 were snatched away from him.
He laid out accusations of a massive hacking attack on election commission servers, and said they had evidence the true results — which showed him to be the winner — were being hidden. The IEBC denied this, and argued his supporting documents were riddled with arithmetic errors and originated from a Microsoft database while the electronic tallying system was based on Oracle.
On Saturday, Kenyan election monitoring group ELOG, which deployed 8,300 observers and carried out a parallel tallying operation at a sample of polling stations, released a statement backing up the official results. And former UN chief Kofi Annan, who helped mediate an end to the 2007 crisis, congratulated Kenyatta on his win and urged Odinga, “a courageous defender of democracy” to turn to the courts with his grievances.
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini congratulated Kenyatta in a statement late Saturday but called for calm heads to prevail. “All political forces should now look to the future and work together, at national and local levels, for the good of the country and the Kenyan people as a whole,” she said. Politics in Kenya is largely divided along tribal lines, and the winner-takes-all nature of elections has long stoked communal tensions.
Odinga’s ethnic Luo supporters — and their allies from other groups — believe they have been denied political power by elites from the Kikuyus, the same ethnic group as Kenyatta, the country’s biggest community. “President Kenyatta, unlike his first term, must include everyone in his government,” wrote the Daily Nation in an editorial, warning that limiting power to his tribal allies was “exacerbating exclusion and creating resentment and disillusionment.”
In his acceptance speech Kenyatta urged Odinga and his supporters, to “work together… so that we can build this nation together”. “Let us be peaceful… We have seen the results of political violence. And I am certain that there is no single Kenyan who would wish for us to go back to this.”