‘Dangerous limbo’ ahead of Kenya’s official election result



Kenya is facing a period of ‘dangerous limbo’ ahead of the official election result, observers suggest.

Hackers broke into election commission computer systems and databases overnight, claims Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga, alleging “massive” voter fraud in the country’s presidential election Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reports:

Odinga told his supporters to remain calm at a Wednesday press conference, though reports of violence were emerging from the nation’s Odinga strongholds. “I don’t control the people,” the 72-year-old former political prisoner added, and provided a 52-page report that he said substantiated his claims. He called the early results of the election “fake” and “fictitious.” Early indications showed President Uhuru Kenyatta ahead 54 percent to 45 percent, according to Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. Monitors from the EU, Carter Center, and the National Democratic Institute were expected to weigh in on the elections Thursday.

Kenyan voters waited in line for hours Tuesday to decide a fiercely contested election for president, as concerns about possible ethnic violence put much of the country on edge. The race – pitting incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, 55, against former prime minister Raila Odinga, 72 – spurred a large turnout across one of Africa’s most vibrant democracies. But Kenya has been torn by tribal clashes after previous elections, and Odinga had told his supporters that he believed only fraud could stand in the way of victory, The Washington Post’s Kevin Sieff reports:

Kenya’s next president will take the helm of an economy that has outpaced the vast majority of countries on the continent. Kenya serves as a base for diplomats, business executives and aid workers, who have come to see the country as an island of stability in a fragile region, bordering South Sudan and Somalia. But it is nonetheless a country fraught with problems – corruption in the public sector, terrorism emanating from Somalia and tribalism that has led to sometimes dangerous political clashes. In 2007, post-election violence left about 1,400 people dead….As polls closed Tuesday evening, the streets of Nairobi, normally packed during rush hour, were mostly empty. International election observers have been positive about the vote.

“I’d give anything to have a turnout like this back home,” said [National Endowment for Democracy board member] Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif., right), who was part of the monitoring team for the National Democratic Institute.

Observers said the danger was that supporters from both sides had been convinced by their leadership that they could not lose, The FT adds.

Credit: VOA

“Everyone is psyched and no one is taking anything less than a win,” said George Collins Owuor, an official with Elections Observation Group (left), a civil society group that is conducting a parallel tally.

The closeness of many African elections generates challenges, says Nic Cheeseman, a professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham. In order to get over the line, leaders often tell their supporters that they are on course for victory. This means that, whoever loses, a significant proportion of the electorate feels cheated. Combined with the frequency of electoral fraud and the use of election gangs, this generates a heady cocktail that can trigger political unrest, he writes for The Washington Post.

And yet….

“There’s more accountability, at more levels, than ever before in Kenya,” Cheeseman told The New York Times. “The experience of taking politics closer to the people has been transformative, particularly so in the areas farthest from Nairobi.”

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