Kenya’s Odinga opts for legal redress to election dispute amid nationwide jitters

NAIROBI, Aug. 18 — The decision by Kenya’s opposition leader,
Raila Odinga to challenge the presidential election outcomes in the Supreme
Court instead of resorting to mass action has earned him accolades from the
public and foreign allies.

Odinga in his eagerly awaited announcement on his next political move on
Wednesday said his NASA coalition will lay bare gross electoral
malpractices that unfairly benefitted his rival President Uhuru Kenyatta
who won the race. The 72-year-old veteran opposition leader who was
making his fourth stab at the presidency made a tactical retreat from an
earlier opposition to seeking legal redress to the election dispute in the
Supreme Court, which had opened a floodgate of speculations and anxieties
in the country. Odinga was however emphatic that civil disobedience was not
off the table despite his party’s decision to file a case in the Supreme
Court to challenge Kenyatta’s victory. He also took a swipe at foreign
observer missions who gave the just concluded elections a clean bill of
health and castigated the State’s attempt to gag rights groups that had
earlier expressed interest in challenging the presidential election
outcomes in the courts of law. “By going to court, we are not legitimizing
misplaced calls by some observers for us to concede but are seeking to give
to those who braved long lines in the morning chill and hot afternoon a
chance to be heard,” said Odinga. “We are also acting on behalf of those
who have been blocked from seeking redress in courts such as the clampdown
on civil society that have attempted to go to court. NASA wants to show the
world what transpired in the fraud,” he added.

Legal experts who spoke after Odinga disclosed his intentions to challenge
presidential election outcomes in the Supreme Court said the success of his
case hinged on presenting credible and watertight evidence to the panel of
seven judges. Kamotho Waiganjo, a Nairobi-based legal analyst noted that
Odinga had made a strategic move by agreeing to file his case on disputed
election outcomes at the Supreme Court but it was imperative to arm himself
with tight evidence. “The legal option that Odinga and his NASA
Co-Principals settled for is sound and a welcome respite to post-poll
anxieties. However, he must present authentic documents illustrating how
the results were manipulated,” said Waiganjo. He added that the heaviest
responsibility lay with Supreme Court judges whom the Kenyan public and
foreign allies expected to deliver an impartial ruling to quell
post-election jitters.

During the televised address, Odinga was adamant that his victory was
stolen through a well orchestrated plot by his political nemesis who gained
access to the electoral agency’s servers and manipulated results in favor
of the incumbent. He vowed to present water tight evidence in the Supreme
Court to illustrate the depth of manipulation and fraud that denied him
victory. “From the start, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries
Commission (IEBC) was illegally releasing unverified results to create the
expectation of an Uhuru Kenyatta victory,” said Odinga. “Then there was
the bizarre phenomenon of Kenyatta’s “lead” staying at around a consistent
11 percent throughout the release of the results! Such a fixed margin has
never been maintained throughout any democratic election anywhere in the
world,” he added. He condemned what he termed as premature declaration of
Kenyatta’s win in the absence of supporting documents. “At midnight last
Friday, we saw the IEBC announce that Kenyatta had been elected president,
even though the Commission continued to acknowledge that only about 29,000
of the 41,000 verified Forms 34As had been tallied!” Odinga quipped.

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec welcomed the move by Odinga to pursue
legal mechanism in challenging Kenyatta’s victory. “We welcome the
decision by Kenya’s opposition alliance, NASA, to go to the Supreme Court
with its concerns regarding the results of the presidential poll. The
Supreme Court is the constitutional venue to address disputes,” Godec said.
“We look forward to the court resolving the questions NASA has raised in
accordance with the rule of law and in the light of the evidence,” he
added. Odinga who unsuccessfully contested an election in 2013, sparking
violent post-election protests, curtailed potential violence by taking his
case to court. Judges eventually ruled in 2013 that much of his evidence
was being submitted outside time limits set by the court, frustrating his
supporters and sparking suspicion over the judiciary’s independence.

However, he vowed on Wednesday to soldier on with his quest for a fair,
just and democratic society even as he sought legal redress to electoral
malpractices that denied his victory on August 8 when Kenyans cast the
ballot in large numbers. “We have the right and indeed the high
responsibility to defend the Constitution and the people’s will. Peaceful
assembly is guaranteed by the Constitution, so is civil disobedience. So is
the right for labor to strike,” said Odinga. He at the same time expressed
skepticism on the ability of the Supreme Court to deliver a fair ruling
given the history of meddling by the Executive Branch of the
government.”Our decision to go to court constitutes a second chance for the
Supreme Court. The Court can use this chance to redeem itself, or, like in
2013 when we filed a petition, it can compound the problems we face as a
country,” Odinga added. – XINHUA