NAIROBI —The leader of Kenya’s opposition party said Wednesday he would challenge the results of last week’s presidential election in the Supreme Court, not in the hopes of overturning the outcome but as a way of exposing evidence of widespread vote-rigging.
“Whether the court rules in our favor or rule against us, we don’t really care,” the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, said in an interview after making the announcement in front of supporters and media “We want this evidence to come out so that people can know how they did it and who did, so they know that it was stolen.”
The incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of the Aug. 8 election with 54 percent of the vote, surpassing the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. Mr. Odinga received 44.7 percent.
Almost immediately after the results were announced, Mr. Odinga and his supporters claimed that election commission servers had been hacked to award Mr. Kenyatta a 10-point lead. Mr. Odinga, a former prime minister who was running for president for a fourth time, described the election as a “fraud,” and insists he is the rightful winner. Days later, he said that he had won 8.04 million votes, to 7.75 million votes for Mr. Kenyatta.
Kenya Election Returns Were Hacked, Opposition Leader Says AUG. 9, 2017
Mr. Odinga’s allegations of fraud triggered protests across Kenya, resulting in the deaths of at least 25 people, including a six-month-old baby. The death toll is far lower than in previous elections, but there are fears of renewed violence, given that many of his supporters have said they will accept nothing less than his presidency.
Throughout his campaign and in the days after the election, Mr. Odinga insisted that he was the rightful winner and that there was no point in resolving the electoral results in court because the judiciary was biased. That created expectations among his followers — many of them young, unemployed men — for some kind of action. Just three days ago, Mr. Odinga, in another speech to followers, called Mr. Kenyatta’s government “a failed regime” but that “leaders in these countries have been removed.” The winners of the election, he added, “too will be removed.”
“We must have justice before we talk about peace,” said Linus Amboka in Mathare, an informal settlement in Nairobi where a number of protesters were killed during clashes with police. “If you stole something and yet demand peace, is that justice?” Another supporter, Frederick Ogendo, shouted, “No Raila, no peace!”
In 2007, a vote that was widely believed to have been flawed touched off spasms of violence that left at least 1,300 people dead and 600,000 displaced. Voting systems in 2013 were afflicted by widespread malfunctions that led to renewed accusations of vote-rigging, and more than 300 people were killed in postelection violence. Mr. Odinga has said he was robbed of victory because of vote-rigging in those last two contests.
So far, Mr. Odinga has not yet corroborated his claims that the results were hacked. But he said in the interview on Wednesday that he was “very confident” about the evidence, which he said had been provided by whistle-blowers working at the electoral commission. He has until this Friday to file a petition.
“This is about the people of Kenya so that the Kenyans are justified to use civil disobedience means to seek justice if they don’t get it in a court of law,” Mr. Odinga said. “So we will use all constitutional means.”
“This is a historic case, not just for Kenya but for Africa,” he said, and criticized observers for appearing to place more importance on preventing violence and instability over considering electoral fraud claims. “I believe the contrary to what observers say, that in Africa security is more important than democracy. African democracy must meet certain international standards.”
His decision to contest the results in court is a reversal from earlier statements, when he and his top aides had rejected calls to resolve electoral disputes in court, as they had tried to do after losing the 2013 election, saying they did not trust the judiciary’s independence.
In that race, Mr. Kenyatta won by a razor-thin margin, just enough to avoid a runoff, prompting Mr. Odinga to ask the Supreme Court to invalidate the election. At that time, the court challenge was hampered by the electoral commission’s failure to release all of the data from the polling stations.
“We had to go to court to get an injunction to get access to the data,” Mr. Odinga said. By the time the commission eventually came around to it, time had run out for the opposition to make its case.
This time, he said, the opposition is well prepared to challenge the results in court.
“The evidence is so clear,” Mr. Odinga said. “I’m very optimistic.”
Last week’s vote was carried out peacefully, and election observers widely applauded the electoral commission’s conduct, noting that the results were based on paper documents that were verified at polling stations, not on the electronic transmission of the votes.
However, the election commission has been slow to produce documents from 290 electoral districts on its website for public viewing, prompting criticism over why it had announced the winner before all the results had been tallied and ahead of the deadline.
The commission’s chief executive, Ezra Chiloba, has asked for more time to release all the data, and late Wednesday, commission spokesman Andrew Limo said that the electoral body had only 1,200 results from polling stations to go.
“We have worked long hours into the night,” Mr. Limo said. “We should complete the exercise by tomorrow evening or very early Friday.”
The European Union’s Election Observer Mission, urged the commission on Wednesday to promptly publish all documents online to “enable all stakeholders to examine the accuracy of the announced results and point to any possible anomalies,” it said in a statement.
Troubling questions remain over the fairness of the election.
“We can see conflicts between Kenyan law and practices of the election,” Marietje Schaake, chief election observer for the European Union, said in an interview.
State funds, she said, were used illegally by the incumbents for campaigning and buying votes.
In another instance, technical procedures for the election were developed late and not sufficiently tested in advance of the vote. “We never framed elections in ‘free and fair’ terms,” Ms. Schaake said.
She also criticized moves this week by Kenyan authorities to try to deregister two nongovernmental organizations, the Kenyan Human Rights Commission and the African Center for Open Governance. The interior minister suspended the decision on Wednesday following a public outcry and international pressure.
As public scrutiny of the results intensifies, Mr. Odinga on Wednesday expressed confidence that he was the rightful winner and said his goal was to make Kenyan elections transparent and fair.
“I believe strongly that Kenya must change,” he said. “We don’t want to have another repeat of this. This is the last time there was an attempt to rig elections in Kenya,” he added.
“I would like to be known for that, for making fundamental changes to our electoral laws so that next time round it will be a level playing field, where people will compete, the winner will be known, and there will be no disputes.”