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Posts tagged ‘Wild Land of Kenya’

Kenyatta Sworn in for Second Term as Kenya President amid Opposition Outcry

Tuesday, 28 November, 2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in on Tuesday for a second term as president of Kenya as the opposition planned to hold a rally to protest the vote outcome.

Kenyatta won a repeat presidential election on October 26 that was boycotted by opposition leader Raila Odinga, who said it would not be free and fair.

The Supreme Court nullified the first presidential election, on August 8, over irregularities.

His swearing in for a second five-year term brought rapturous celebrations from his supporters as riot police sealed off an area where the opposition planned a rival gathering.

“I … do swear … that I will always truly and diligently serve the people of the Republic of Kenya,” Kenyatta said.

Before he arrived, a military band in gold and blue uniforms serenaded heads of state from Somalia, Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Zambia and other nations as they arrived at the stadium where the ceremony took place.

More than 60,000 Kenyatta supporters, many clad in the red and yellow Jubilee party colors and carrying Kenyan flags, filled the stadium benches.

Thousands of others waited outside. Some, chafing at the restrictions, overwhelmed police and streamed in. Officers were forced to fire teargas to control them.

The extended election season has divided Kenya, a Western ally in a volatile region, and blunted growth in East Africa’s richest economy.

Odinga’s supporters, many drawn from poorer parts of the country, feel locked out of power and the patronage it brings.

Political arguments often have ethnic undercurrents, with Odinga’s supporters pointing out that three of the country’s four presidents have come from one ethnic group, although the country has 44 recognized groups.

But such arguments seemed far from the happy crowds at the celebration, who cheered wildly as Kenyatta was sworn into office and as he received a 21-gun salute.

“I’m sure Uhuru will be able to bring people together and unite them so we can all work for the country,” said Eunice Jerobon, a trader who traveled overnight from the Rift Valley town of Kapsabet for the inauguration, before the disturbance.

But Odinga supporters say such talk of unity is tantamount to surrender. They accuse the ruling party of stealing the election, rampant corruption, directing abuse by the security forces and neglecting vast swathes of the country, including Odinga’s heartland in the west.

“A return to the political backwardness of our past is more than unacceptable. It is intolerable … This divide cannot be bridged by dialogue and compromise,” Odinga’s National Super Alliance opposition alliance said in a statement.

The opposition planned to hold a prayer meeting in the capital on Tuesday, saying it wanted to commemorate the lives of Odinga supporters killed during confrontations with the security forces over the election period.

A witness said one person was shot dead as Kenyan police tried to block opposition supporters from holding the memorial.

More than 70 people have been killed in political violence this election season, mostly by the police. Such killings are rarely investigated. Human rights groups and others say nearly 100 people have been killed since the election that was nullified by the Supreme Court.

A Reuters team at the scene of the planned rally said the area had been sealed off by seven truck loads of police in riot gear. Two water cannons were standing by and a helicopter hovered overhead.

Police began firing teargas in nearby residential areas two hours before the rally was due to start, apparently attempting to prevent opposition supporters from gathering.

Several roads were blocked by burning tires, rocks, glass and uprooted billboards. Police shot in the air to disperse anyone trying to gather.

But Dennis Onyango, a spokesman for Odinga, told Reuters on Tuesday morning they were still planning to hold the rally.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.

Link: https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1097286/kenyatta-sworn-second-term-kenya-president-amid-opposition-outcry.

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Kenya’s vote dispute simmers, though opposition areas calmer

October 28, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s second presidential election since August remained in limbo on Saturday as the election commission said it was working on a “way forward” in opposition areas where voting has been postponed because of unrest. While most of the country was calm, police used tear gas to disperse crowds in a Nairobi slum where anger toward the government runs deep.

It was unclear when tensions over the election, a rerun of the nullified August vote, would subside. Opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted the vote on Thursday, citing a lack of election reforms. Tallies from many polling stations, published on the election commission’s website, showed President Uhuru Kenyatta with vast leads over Odinga and six other candidates.

However, any decision to declare Kenyatta the winner would likely intensify grievances among opposition supporters in the East African country with a reputation for stability and economic growth. Kenya is again struggling with divisions fueled by ethnic-based politics. The voting delays in four counties where opposition supporters have fought with police have complicated hopes for the country’s troubled democracy.

The election commission will provide an update Sunday “on the way forward” in two dozen constituencies where voting did not occur, commission chief Wafula Chebukati said. “We have the materials ready but we can’t do this alone. It’s a security issue,” Chebukati said. “We cannot put the lives of our staff at risk.”

The election commission also revised its turnout from Thursday’s election to 48 percent of 19.6 million registered voters, saying an earlier estimate of about one-third was not based on complete data. The opposition boycott sharply reduced turnout in comparison to the Aug. 8 vote, when nearly 80 percent of registered voters participated.

The Supreme Court nullified the August vote because of irregularities — the first time a court in Africa had overturned a presidential election. Odinga, whose legal challenge led to the ruling, withdrew from the new election, saying the process was not credible because of the lack of electoral reforms.

The streets of Kisumu, Kenya’s third-largest city and an opposition stronghold, as well as several Nairobi slums were largely quiet on Saturday, though police clashed with crowds in the capital’s Kawangware slum.

Young men in Kawangware, some of them carrying machetes, taunted the police and ran for cover. “No Raila, no peace,” some chanted. “I don’t see this ending soon,” said one supporter, Paul Maumo. He accused the election commission of staging a fraudulent vote.

At least six people have died in violence linked to the latest vote. Kenyatta, who got 54 percent of the vote in August, is from the Kikuyu community and has talked about the need to dispel ethnic loyalties in politics. Odinga, who got nearly 45 percent in the earlier election, is a Luo.

Some Kenyans have raised concerns about the way Thursday’s election was conducted. The electoral commission announced that 35,564 polling stations opened on voting day, but the commission chairman later tweeted they had received results forms from 36,796 polling stations.

Commission spokesman Andrew Limo said some electronic transmission kits fail to send a signal to show the polling station has opened but still transmit results. The commission has stopped updating results that were transmitted electronically and will announce only the final ones, he said.

International election observers had a much lower profile in Thursday’s election, reflecting their concern about opposition hostility toward their generally positive reviews of voting day in August. Observers had urged anyone with grievances to address them through legal channels.

Acting on behalf of the African Union, former South African President Thabo Mbeki was the only high-profile election observer during Thursday’s vote. Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Kenya in August as an observer for The Carter Center, did not return this time.

Kenyan officials report low turnout in presidential election

October 27, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s election commission says about 6.5 million people, or one-third of registered voters, went to the polls in a presidential election that was boycotted by the main opposition group.

The turnout in Thursday’s election was much lower than the nearly 80 percent of registered voters who participated in an Aug. 8 election that was later nullified by the Supreme Court. Wafula Chebukati, the election commission chairman, said late Thursday the count was based on results from 267 out of Kenya’s 290 constituencies.

Authorities postponed voting in several counties until Saturday because opposition supporters prevented polling stations from opening and clashed with police. Four people were killed. President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner in the August vote; opposition leader Raila Odinga says the election process is not credible.

Kenya police shoot dead 2 opposition protesters

October 13, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Police in Kenya said Friday they shot and killed two opposition protesters who allegedly stormed a police station with farm tools and rocks in the western part of the country, while police used tear gas on rallies in the capital and elsewhere demanding reforms ahead of the new election.

Three other protesters had gunshot wounds in Siaya County, Bondo police chief Paul Kiarie said. The demonstrations defied a new government ban on opposition protests in the central business districts of Kenya’s three largest cities, while concerns rose again about election-related violence in East Africa’s largest economy.

In the capital, Nairobi, police fired tear gas as opposition supporters tried to march to the central business district. In Kisumu, Kenya’s third-largest city, local television showed running battles with stone-throwing youth.

Police also used tear gas in Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city, said opposition legislator Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir. The government on Thursday banned opposition protests in the cities’ central business districts because of “imminent danger of breach of peace,” Interior Minister Fred Matiangi said, claiming that opposition supporters had looted businesses and attacked police stations.

Human rights groups protested the ban, with some pointing out that police have killed at least 37 people in protests since the results of the August election were announced. The Supreme Court annulled that vote, citing irregularities, and called for a new one. It is set for Oct. 26.

“This ban, announced just two weeks ahead of a fraught repeat presidential election, is likely to become a basis for heavy-handed police crackdowns,” said Michelle Kagari, a deputy regional director with Amnesty International.

Opposition coalition Chief Executive Officer Norman Magaya said police have allowed government supporters into the banned protest areas and that they were attacking opposition supporters. Opposition leaders have called for daily demonstrations ahead of the fresh elections. Opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose legal challenge led the court to nullify President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election, this week said he has withdrawn from the race because no reforms to electoral commission have been made.

The commission has said the new election will go ahead with all eight candidates who ran in August and that Odinga is still considered a candidate as he has not formally withdrawn. No candidate aside from Odinga and Kenyatta received even 1 percent of the vote.

Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party has been pursuing changes to the electoral law that the opposition says will make it more difficult for the Supreme Court to nullify a presidential election and will reduce safeguards against electoral fraud. Parliament approved the amendments, and on Friday the president’s communication office said he had received them and had 14 days to sign them into law.

Opposition legislator James Orengo said Friday the law will lower safeguards against vote-rigging by making the preferred system of transmitting election results a manual one. Kenya adopted an electronic system following the flawed 2007 election which sparked ethnic violence that left more than 1,000 people dead.

Kenya ruling brings new uncertainty to fresh election

October 11, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A Kenyan judge on Wednesday ruled that a minor opposition candidate can run for president in this month’s election, bringing fresh uncertainty a day after opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew from the new vote ordered by the Supreme Court.

At the same time, lawmakers approved amendments to the electoral law that have been criticized by the opposition and Western diplomats. The amendments require the approval of President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose ruling party sought the changes after the Supreme Court nullified Kenyatta’s election in August and cited “irregularities.”

Elsewhere in Nairobi, police used tear gas to disperse thousands of opposition protesters who regrouped outside the election commission’s offices and demanded reforms. In the opposition stronghold of Kisumu city, four people with gunshot wounds were admitted to hospitals after police used live ammunition to disperse protesters, a police official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with reporters.

Wednesday’s court ruling appeared to open the way for other presidential candidates in the August election to run again on Oct. 26, though none aside from Kenyatta and Odinga received even 1 percent of the vote.

Justice John Mativo said he did not see any reason for Ekuru Aukot to be barred from participating in the repeat election. Aukot won about 27,000 votes of more than 15 million cast in the invalidated poll.

The Supreme Court last month rejected the August election in which Kenyatta was declared the winner after Odinga challenged the results, saying hackers infiltrated the electoral commission’s computer system to manipulate the vote in Kenyatta’s favor.

Odinga then surprised Kenyans on Tuesday by withdrawing from the fresh election, saying the electoral commission must be changed or the new vote risked having the same problems. His withdrawal created confusion in East Africa’s largest economy, with observers wondering how the new election might go forward.

The election commission has said it was meeting with its legal team on the way forward. Kenyatta, who called the Supreme Court judges “crooks” after their ruling, has said he does not want changes to the election commission. His Jubilee Party has instead has used its parliamentary majority to push for the changes to the electoral law.

The opposition says the changes are meant to make the transmission of election results a manual process that would have fewer safeguards against fraud, and would make it more difficult for the court to annul an election.

Diplomats including the United States ambassador this month said the proposed amendments put at risk the election commission’s “ability to conduct a better election” and unnecessarily increase political tensions.

Kenya election official stopped from flying to US

August 16, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A top Kenyan electoral official, among those who oversaw this country’s disputed presidential election, has been stopped from traveling to the U.S., Kenyan officials said Wednesday.

At least 24 people have died in protests opposing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election although international observers saying the official results, which show Kenyatta trounced veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga with more than 1 million votes, are credible.

Electoral commissioner Roselyn Akombe was stopped by security agents from boarding a flight to New York late Tuesday, said the officials who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals. Her luggage was offloaded and she was told to seek clearance to travel from the director of immigration, said the officials. Akombe, who is a dual U.S. and Kenya citizen, was not given any reason why she stopped from boarding her flight, said officials.

The electoral commission later said Akombe who was to be traveling to the U.S. for an official meeting was delayed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by officials who have since apologized. She was to board a connecting flight to the U.S. Wednesday morning more than 10 hours later, said the officials.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has rejected the official results of the presidential election which show he lost to incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta. Odinga claims that the vote was rigged.

2 killed in Kenya protests after president wins 2nd term

August 12, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan police shot and killed two people during riots by opposition supporters after President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner in elections overshadowed by fraud allegations, authorities said Saturday.

The deaths occurred on the outskirts of Kisumu, a city where opposition leader Raila Odinga has strong support, according to Leonard Katana, a regional police commander. Another five people were injured by gunfire in Kisumu, Katana said.

Also Saturday, Kenyan police opened fire to disperse opposition protesters who blocked roads and set up burning barricades in a slum in Nairobi, the capital. Associated Press photographers saw police charging demonstrators and firing live rounds and tear gas in the Mathare area, as well as similar scenes in Kibera, another Nairobi slum.

Protesters, some with rocks or sticks, ran for cover as they came under fire in Kibera. It was not known how many people were arrested by police in anti-riot gear. Most of the country of 45 million people was calm the day after the election commission announced that Kenyatta, whose father was Kenya’s first president after independence from British colonial rule, had won a second, five-year term. In a victory speech, Kenyatta said he was extending a “hand of friendship” to the opposition, which alleged that the election commission’s database had been hacked and results were manipulated against Odinga.

Kenyatta won with a decisive 54 percent of the vote to nearly 45 percent for Odinga, but the bitter dispute over the integrity of the election process tempered what many Kenyans had hoped would be a celebration of democracy in a regional power known for its economic promise and long-term stability.

The unrest also exposed divisions in a society where poverty and corruption at top levels of government have angered large numbers of Kenyans, including those who have been protesting in the slums and see Odinga as a voice for their grievances.

Adding to the rift is ethnic loyalty. Kenyatta is widely seen as the representative of the Kikuyu people, the country’s largest ethnic group, while Odinga is associated with the Luo group, which has never produced a head of state.

But reconciliation efforts, the introduction of a progressive constitution in 2010 and an intense security operation during the recent election period have helped to ward off the kind of ethnic violence after the 2007 election in which more than 1,000 people were killed. Odinga ran unsuccessfully in that election; he also lost the 2013 vote to Kenyatta and took allegations of vote-tampering to Kenya’s highest court, which rejected his case.

Recalling its failed legal challenge in 2013, the opposition has said it will not go to court again. Its top leaders have, so far, refrained from publicly calling for mass protests. Catholic leaders on Saturday appealed for calm and asked security forces to exercise caution during protests.

“We appeal to them to restrain themselves from using excessive force in handling crowds,” said John Oballa Owaa, vice chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops. “No life should be lost because of an election.”

The bishop said any dispute over the election should be resolved peacefully and by “legal norms as provided in the constitution.”

Associated Press journalists Ben Curtis and Jerome Delay in Nairobi contributed.

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