NAIROBI – Raila Odinga, Kenya’s losing presidential candidate, filed an online petition in the country’s highest court on Monday to challenge the August 9 election result that won by his rival William Ruto.
Odinga, a veteran opposition politician who ran with the backing of the ruling party, dismissed the poll results, calling them a “mockery”.
He narrowly lost to Ruto by around 230,000 votes, less than two percentage points.
“It has already been sent to them and they will see it soon,” Daniel Maanzo, a member of the 77-year-old politician’s legal team, said of the petition.
“We are hopeful that we have made our case and won,” he added.
Paul Mwangi, who also represents Odinga, was quoted by AFP that a physical copy of the petition would be filed before the 2 p.m. (1100 GMT) deadline set by the Supreme Court.
Although election day was peaceful, the announcement of the results a week ago sparked angry protests in some Odinga strongholds, and there are fears that a prolonged conflict could lead to violence in a country with a history of post-election unrest.
Every presidential election in Kenya since 2002 has sparked a dispute, with this year’s result also creating a split in the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which oversaw the election.
Odinga, a candidate for the top job for the fifth time, also appealed to the Supreme Court in August 2017 when President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of the presidential campaign.
The court annulled this election for the first time in Africa and ordered a rerun, which Odinga boycotted. Dozens of people have died in a police crackdown on protests.
The judges now have 14 days to decide. If they order a cancellation, it must be revoked within 60 days.
RAILA WANTS JUSTICE
Hundreds of Odinga supporters gathered outside the courthouse on Monday, whistling and waving signs that read “Voting Justice Now!” and “We want justice now”.
“Odinga needs to win so we can get the 6,000 shillings ($50) promised in his manifesto,” said a man wearing a wreath of plants, referring to a monthly cash payment to needy households.
Another man – armed with a Bible and wearing huge green glasses – knelt and prayed as police guarded the courthouse.
Judges are also expected to consider other challenges to the result, with a court clerk telling reporters that the court has already received a petition filed by a voter.
Odinga, who buried the hatchet with Kenyatta in 2018 and won the president’s backing for his candidacy, said last week that the figures announced by the IEBC were “null and void and must be overturned by a court”.
The IEBC came under intense pressure to get a clean vote after coming under heavy criticism for its handling of the August 2017 election.
But in a shocking development, just before the results were announced, four of the IEBC’s seven commissioners accused President Wafula Chebukati of carrying out an “opaque” operation and later said the numbers did not match.
Chebukati has denied the charges, insisting he performed his duties under the law of the land despite “intimidation and harassment”.
Legal experts are split on whether Chebukati needed the commissioners’ backing to announce the findings, with constitutional lawyer Charles Kanjama telling AFP there was “some ambiguity” on the issue.
Odinga has previously said he was cheated out of victory in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 elections, and the aftermath of the ballot is watched with suspense as a test of democratic maturity in the East African powerhouse.
During the election campaign, the two top candidates pledged to settle disputes in the courts rather than on the streets.
Since the announcement of the results, Odinga has praised his supporters for “keeping calm”, while Ruto has adopted a conciliatory tone and pledged to “work with all leaders”.
The worst election violence in Kenya came after the 2007 elections, when more than 1,100 people died in politically motivated clashes between rival tribes.
If the Supreme Court upholds the findings, Ruto will become Kenya’s fifth president since independence from Britain in 1963, taking over the reins of a country struggling with rising inflation, high unemployment and crippling drought.
* Access the full petition here….
- Editor / additional report by AFP