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Kenya opposition leader to organize protests; talks flop

NAIROBI — Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga on Thursday announced he will organize protests to push for reforms to the electoral commission and to stop the ruling party from removing safeguards against electoral fraud ahead of fresh presidential elections.

Odinga called for the countrywide protests next week after talks collapsed Thursday between the electoral commission, the ruling party and his representatives on how to hold fresh presidential elections.

Kenya’s electoral commission set Oct. 26 to rerun the presidential elections after the Supreme Court nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s August re-election citing a lack of verification of results. The Supreme Court also objected to the electoral commission’s refusal to open its computer systems to investigate Odinga’s charge that hackers had infiltrated them and changed the voting results.

The talks over the new elections failed because the opposition objects to Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party is planning to use its majority in parliament to remove a requirement that results be transmitted electronically, Odinga’s representative Senator James Orengo said. That measure was introduced to curb electoral fraud following the 2007 flawed poll, he said.

Odinga charged the ruling party is teetering toward dictatorship. He said his running mate, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, was stopped at the airport earlier Thursday while about to travel out of the country and was told he had to seek clearance from the presidency for international travel. Odinga, a former prime minister said his police security and that of Musyoka had been removed as a way of intimidating them.

“Jubilee want to take us backward … to the days of dictatorship,” he said. “Jubilee want to bring a presidential election they will win at all costs,” said Odinga.

Electoral Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati said the laws that are in place are sufficient. “We don’t need any other law for purposes of Oct. 26 elections,” he said.

Odinga has said he will not participate in the fresh poll without major reforms to the electoral commission. Kenyatta has said he does not want any changes.

However, the ruling party’s Senate Deputy Speaker Kindiki Kithure said they are willing to discuss the demands for reforms by the opposition but Odinga’s representatives walked out of the talks. He charged that Odinga is attempting to delay the elections because he is not ready.

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