In Brief

Kenya's Supreme Court rules presidential election invalid

Court calls for new vote within 60 days, raising spectre of violence

Supporters of Kenya's opposition leader are celebrating after judges ruled that the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta was fraudulent and ordered a new vote to be held within two months.

The judges upheld a petition by the opposition candidate Raila Odinga, who claimed the electoral commission's IT system was hacked to elect Kenyatta by a margin of 1.4 million votes, the BBC reports. 

"The presidential election was not conducted in accordance with the constitution," Chief Justice David Maraga said, declaring Kenyatta's election win invalid. Four out of six judges supported Odinga's petition, CNN says. 

The decision to cancel the result is the first of its kind in Kenya's history and has raised fears of violence in a country with a history of disputed elections. Clashes over the 2007 poll, in which Odinga was declared the loser, were followed by weeks of ethnic bloodshed in which more than 1,200 were killed, the Daily Telegraph reports. 

Many pro-Odinga voters in the west of Kenya and along the coast feel "neglected by the central government and shut out of power," Reuters says. 

Odinga has contested the last three elections and lost three times. This year, he challenged the process for tallying and transmitting results, which he claimed was flawed, rather than questioning how much of the vote was rigged, Reuters says.

Kenya election: President Kenyatta leads as opposition claims voter fraud

09 August

With the majority of votes now counted in Kenya's controversial presidential election, results show the country's President Uhuru Kenyatta has a commanding lead.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who was confident of victory, claims hackers broke into election commission computer systems overnight leading to massive fraud.

"You can only cheat the people for so long," Odinga said. "The 2017 general election was a fraud. The system has failed."

In what he called an "attack on our democracy", Odinga claimed hackers used the identity of murdered election official Chris Msando to "create errors" in the country's electoral database. Msando was in charge of Kenya's computerised voting system before he was "severely tortured and strangled to death" last week, according to an autopsy report.

With ballots from 94 per cent of polling stations counted, the results released by Kenya's electoral commission show the incumbent leads by 54.4 per cent of the nearly 14 million ballots tallied against Odinga's 44.8 per cent, a difference of 1.3 million votes, reports The Guardian.

Odinga has published on Twitter his own party's assessment of the count, saying he had 8.1 million votes against 7.2 million for Kenyatta.

The country's electoral commission insists the election is free and fair but did say they would investigate whether or not their computer systems had been hacked.

The Washington Post's African bureau chief Kevin Sieff criticised the electoral commission's response to the allegations of voter fraud, saying: "Kenya's election commission had the chance to build public confidence, to dismiss claims that their system could be hacked. They did not."

Odinga's comments have "raised concerns of unrest over the results in Kenya, East Africa's leading economy and a regional hub," said Reuters.

Kenyan journalist Fred Ooko told The Independent that he witnessed hundreds of protesters rioting in Kisumu, a city in southwestern Kenya that is a stronghold of Odinga's.

180,000 police deployed for Kenya's election

08 August

Kenya has deployed an estimated 180,000 police and security officers on to the streets as voting begins in the hotly contested presidential election.

"The country is braced for widespread unrest whoever wins, after a campaign marred by hundreds of violent incidents – including the murder of a high-profile election official – issues with new voting technology and widespread concerns about fraud," The Guardian reports.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is seeking a second and final term, appeared on TV last night to urge people to vote, but to "do so in peace".

He added: "After you cast your ballot, please go home. Go back to your neighbour. Regardless of where he or she comes from, their tribe, their colour or their religion, shake their hand, share a meal and tell them, 'Let us wait for the results,' for Kenya will be here long after this general election."

Former US president Barack Obama added his voice to calls for calm.

"I urge Kenyan leaders to reject violence and incitement, respect the will of the people; urge security forces to act professionally and neutrally, and work together no matter the outcome", he said.

"Few voices from outside Kenya could resonate more powerfully than that of Obama, whose father, Barack Obama Sr., was a Kenyan student," says the New York Times.

Violence after the 2007 election led to the death of more than 1,100 Kenyans, "an outcome neither side wants to see repeated", the BBC reports.

Neither Kenyatta nor his principal opponent, Raila Odinga, is expected to win a majority in the first round of voting. It is believed they will face a run-off later this month.

Kenyan police accused of running death squads

15 July

There is growing anger across Kenya over accusations that police officers are carrying our enforced disappearances and unlawful executions.

Hundreds of lawyers joined protests in Nairobi last week, after the bodies of human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwendwa, and their taxi driver, Joseph Muiruri, washed up on the banks of a river north-east of the capital. A post-mortem revealed the men had all been tortured.

Three police officers have been arrested in connection with the deaths, but none have been charged.

Mwendwa had alleged in April that he had been shot and injured by police. His court case was ongoing at the time of his disappearance last month.

"Lawyers vowed to boycott the courts for a week, out of solidarity for their fallen colleague, and their absence has paralysed Kenya’s justice system," the New York Times reports.

The Law Society of Kenya said the discovery of the corpses confirmed "advocates and citizens are at risk of elimination by police death squads".

Despite its stable government and large economy, Kenya's police force has long been plagued by accusations of corruption, abuse and extrajudicial killings, with little or no accountability.

Campaigners say the most recent death highlights a wider trend of unlawful executions by the police, the BBC's Tomi Oladipo reports.

The United Nations, quoting non-government sources, estimates that as many as 53 people may have been summarily executed by police forces between January and April this year.

The police force has distanced itself from the latest deaths, adds Oladipo, and described them as an "isolated incident relating to a rogue policeman".

John Githongo, a prominent anticorruption activist, told the NYT it had been "open season on young men in the slums" for a long time, but lawyers were considered untouchable.

"The Kenya police is the most rotten public institution we have," he added. "And this has pushed a button that hadn't been pushed [before]."

Kenya: Violent police crackdown raises fears of toxic 2017 election

5 July

Tensions are already escalating across Kenya in the run-up to the general elections next year, with many analysts fearing a repeat of the deadly violence that erupted nearly a decade ago.

Several people have already been killed and many more injured in clashes with police officers in the western city of Kisumu. According to witnesses, police fired live rounds into the crowd. Among the critically injured was a five-year old boy.

What's been happening?

Widespread protests led by opposition leader Raila Odinga, from the Cord alliance, have taken place across the east African nation in recent months.

The party is seeking electoral reform ahead of the 2017 vote, arguing that the election commission is corrupt and biased towards current president Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kenyatta dismissed the accusations and declared the commission a constitutional body that will remain in power until the end of its mandate.

"This hardened political posturing has created an impasse, where the escalating drumbeats of political tension threaten to make the 2017 elections even more violent than those of 2007," said Peter Aling'o, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Nairobi.

Police officers have long been accused of acting with impunity in Kenya and there are fears that deadly crackdowns on rallies and demonstrations will continue.

Enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings are also becoming normal, Samuel Mohochi, the executive director of the Kenya section of the International Commission of Jurists, told the Financial Times. His comments come as outrage grows over the killing of three Kenyans, including a lawyer and his client, who had been vocal critics of the police.

What's the background?

"Kenya is a relatively prosperous, developed and politically tolerant African nation," Jeffrey Gettleman writes in the New York Times. "But elections have not been its strong suit."

The result of the 2007 election, which declared the incumbent Mwai Kibaki the winner, was widely disputed by the opposition as well as international observers. The brutal ethnic violence that followed tore the country apart and left more than 1,200 people dead and half a million people homeless.

"Many Kenyans are shaking their heads with a sense of fatigue and dread, saying, 'Here we go again,'" says Gettleman.

What next?

"The ultimate tragedy would be if lessons from that terrible ordeal, which brought east Africa's leading economic power to the brink of civil war, went unlearnt," says the Financial Times.

But there is no clear path to peace and political stability, with the nation largely split along ethnic lines. "Kenya's political circumstances involve extreme political and ethnic polarisation, which require not only technical and legal solutions, but also a politically nuanced pact," says Aling'o.


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