Kenya Declares President Kenyatta Winner Of Disputed Election | WYPR

Kenya Declares President Kenyatta Winner Of Disputed Election

Oct 30, 2017
Originally published on October 30, 2017 11:33 pm

Despite about 10 percent of Kenyans not being able to cast a vote because of violence, Kenya's electoral commission has declared President Uhuru Kenyatta the winner of a re-run of the country's presidential election.

Kenyatta received 98.26 percent of the vote in an election that was boycotted by the opposition and has rekindled the deep tribal divisions that have in the past led to serious outbreaks of violence.

Before the making the announcement Monday, Wafula Chebukati, the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, called for a moment of silence for the dozens of men and women who have been killed during the course of these elections.

Chebukati, who less than two weeks ago said he could not conduct a fair election because of political meddling in his commission, said he believed in the future of Kenya's democracy. But, he said, Kenya also has to deal with problems that are easier "swept under the rug."

"Democracy is about hope; it's about a future that is greater than the present. It's about creating an environment and institutions that inspire a Kenyan dream," he said. "It's about knowing without a shadow of doubt that they are part of the Kenyan story."

Back in August, the country's Supreme Court threw out the results of the first presidential elections citing vast irregularities. At that moment, the court asserted its independence and Kenya was hailed a beacon of democracy in East Africa. It was the first time an African supreme court had annulled the victory of a sitting president.

But the history of the moment and what it meant for Kenya's maturing democracy, quickly faded. It was marred by the politicization of two key institutions — the IEBC and the Supreme Court — and the tribalization of the violent street protests. In the end, only about 38 percent of registered voters went to the polls, a long way from the 75 percent who did so in August.

A new poll was set for Oct. 26, but opposition leader Raila Odinga said too few changes had been made to correct the mistakes of the first election, so he pulled out. Bouts of violence shook Kenya's opposition strongholds and as elections officials tried to do their jobs, they were attacked.

A top elections official fled to the United States and raised questions about the fairness of the process. And the day before the Supreme Court was set to hear an important challenge to the elections, the deputy chief justice's bodyguard was shot. The next day, only two judges showed up for the hearing — not enough to form a quorum.

In a statement, the European Union called the lack of quorum "highly unusual" and said it "raised serious questions ... about possible political interference." The Carter Center urged President Kenyatta and Odinga to dialogue so the IEBC could conduct a credible election.

But the two men have yet to meet and election day was marked by violence as opposition supporters barricaded streets and battered polling stations with rocks. In opposition strongholds in western Kenya, the threat of violence was so bad, officials called off elections, saying some of their staff had been "hijacked and ... tortured."

About 10 percent of Kenyans never got the chance to vote. Kenya's electoral commission decided to go ahead and announce results anyway. Kenyatta's lead was so large, Commissioner Consolata Nkatha said, that those votes would not matter.

A Western diplomat, who asked not to be named so he could speak candidly, said both sides had engaged in "undemocratic activities." The opposition stopped people from voting; the ruling party passed legislation through parliament that tried to curb the power of the Supreme Court.

"This is about powerful men thinking they can do whatever they want," the diplomat said.

When asked whether his country would recognize these elections as free, fair and credible, he said,"What we've seen so far, certainly calls into question the credibility."

The Kenyan government says it went through with the elections because the constitution calls for fresh elections to be held within 60 days of an annulment.

"There will be no changes of government in a manner outside the constitution," said Korir Sing'Oei, a legal adviser for the country's deputy president. What the opposition leader was doing, he said, was inviting Kenya "to set aside the constitution for an indeterminate processes that no one knows where it was going."

Martin Kimani, the government's counterterrorism chief, said the opposition or anyone with a grievance is also free to petition the Supreme Court once again and ask it to throw out this repeat election and demand a third one.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Kenya has announced the winner of the disputed rerun of its presidential elections, and the result was not a surprise because the opposition leader boycotted the vote. So President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner by a landslide. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: About 10 percent of Kenyans did not get the opportunity to vote. There were so many threats and so much violence that some polls just never opened. Before announcing results, Wafula Chebukati, the country's top elections official, began by wondering why it is that every Kenyan election ends in acrimony and violence. He says he believes in Kenyan democracy, but at the same time, Kenyans have to begin answering some tough questions.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WAFULA CHEBUKATI: Democracy is about hope. It's about a future that's greater than the present. It's about creating an environment and institutions that inspire a Kenyan dream. It's about knowing without a shadow of doubt that they are part of the Kenyan story.

PERALTA: But then the man who just two weeks ago declared he could not run a fair election because of political interference moves on. He declares that Uhuru Kenyatta garnered 98 percent of the vote and that he is satisfied with the legitimacy of this election.

(CHEERING)

PERALTA: President Kenyatta takes the stage. He says this election had to move on as quickly as it did to abide by the Constitution. And then he offers the opposition a way forward. If they want to challenge this election in the Supreme Court and seek another rerun, they should.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA: And, as I have demonstrated repeatedly, I will submit to this constitutional path no matter its outcomes.

PERALTA: The president then asks Kenyans to keep the peace, but across the country protests break out. And in Nairobi's biggest slum, Kenyans walking home from work are welcomed by riot police.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Shouting in foreign language).

PERALTA: Marilyn Okach, who sells fish at the market, was terrified.

MARILYN OKACH: Because, see; we went to job. I'm a businesswoman. We are just seeing people running.

PERALTA: So she ran, too, across a police line and into her house, not knowing what comes next. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.