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Kenyan president declared winner of disputed election rerun

NAIROBI – Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta has been declared the winner in the country’s second general election in three months, amid fears of prolonged political turmoil.

Last week’s rerun of presidential polls, controversially ordered by the supreme court, was marred by violent clashes between security forces and an opposition boycott.

Kenyatta, 55, won 98% of the vote, the election commission said. With his victory never in doubt, attention has focused on the 38% turnout.

That figure will undermine the credibility of any mandate Kenyatta may claim for a second five-year term and will be seen as a victory by the opposition.

Polls were not held in four western constituencies, all opposition strongholds, for security reasons, election officials said.

“Every five years we seem to be facing the same challenges. It is important we ask ourselves some hard questions,” said Wafula Chebukati, the chairman of the electoral commission.

Kenya remains more divided than at any time for many years. Fears of further violence between ethnic groups and a hardening of divisive rhetoric remain high, despite efforts by civil society groups, diplomats and some leading politicians to reduce tensions.

Much now depends on the reaction of Raila Odinga, the 72-year-old veteran leader of the opposition, who has rejected the recent polls as a “sham” and called for fresh elections in 90 days.

Odinga said he will address supporters on Tuesday.

Western diplomats in Nairobi blame both sides for the violence and current deadlock, and have called on Kenyatta and Odinga to end the political crisis and avert further loss of life.

“I call on all Kenyans to come together at this critical moment in an open and transparent national dialogue, to reject the politics of hatred, and to resolve divisions,” said Rory Stewart, the UK’s minister for Africa.

Officials said on Monday that police were searching for opposition politicians they blame for an outbreak of violence in a slum neighbourhood of Nairobi.

At least three people were killed in violence on Friday and Saturday in Kawangare, in the west of the city. Some reports put the death toll at ten.

“In Kawangare people were targeting those who voted … We are looking for suspects who are politicians and you will see arrests soon,” said Martin Kimani, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s special envoy for countering violent extremism.

So far this year, between 55 and 75 people have died in election-related violence. Many have been shot by security forces and human rights campaigners have raised concerns about heavy-handed policing during the polls.

“Heavily-armed police are using unlawful force against protesters and bystanders… in what appears to be a deliberate campaign to punish people for continuing to protest,” said Amnesty in a statement.

Kimani defended the actions of Kenyan police and paramilitaries over recent months.

“The security services have not undertaken any systematic use of violence to intimidate or confront any peaceful demonstrators,” he said.

“There is a limit to the politics of vigilantism, interference and sabotage and we have to hold that line … We have had some calls for peace but immediately succeeded by more incitement.”

The increasingly chaotic political drama in Kenya began when the supreme court overturned Kenyatta’s victory in the 8 August election, citing irregularities and mismanagement by the electoral commission. The turnout for that poll was 80%.

Odinga then withdrew from the rerun election, saying he believed it would be marred by the same flaws as the August vote.

A flood of legal challenges to the most recent election is expected.

Okiya Omtatah Okoiti, an activist, filed a petition before the supreme court last week claiming a fresh poll should have been held rather than a re-run following the Odinga’s decision not to stand.

“Without the rule of law we have nothing else. It is the foundation of everything … Otherwise people will just go to war,” he said.

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