It’s Official: Kenyan President Wins Re-Election. But Will Opposition Concede?

August 11, 2017

Updated 5:50 p.m. ET

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has won a second five-year term, the country’s electoral commission announced Friday. The official results show Kenyatta achieving re-election comfortably, with a lead of more than 1.4 million votes over his principal challenger, Raila Odinga.

“We are all citizens of one republic,” Kenyatta said on national television after what was a bruising and bitter campaign.

“As with any competition,” he continued, “there shall always be winners and there shall be losers. But we all belong to one great nation called Kenya.”

Yet it’s not clear that Odinga will readily accept the outcome, which he has vehemently protested since preliminary results for Tuesday’s election began portending a Kenyatta victory. As recently as Thursday, Odinga’s campaign manager, Musalia Mudavadi, declared victory for his candidate, saying that “a serious attempt to try to either doctor or alter the final results” had fraudulently swung the balance of the election.

At a news conference Thursday, Odinga’s camp presented alternative figures showing him leading by several hundred thousand votes — but, as NPR’s Eyder Peralta notes, it did not clarify where these figures were obtained.

After the mysterious murder and torture of a high-ranking elections official late last month, Odinga claimed that — in Eyder’s words — “a hacker used that man’s credentials to go into the electoral reporting system and changed the result.”

Electoral commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati has rejected the opposition’s argument, however, saying the evidence they provided is “obviously and plainly falsified and contains elementary errors.”

And while Chebukati acknowledges that there was an an attempt to hack the country’s voting system, he maintained that the attempt failed.

International observers, for their part, have lent their blessing to the electoral process in Kenya, saying that despite “minor variances” the election was conducted freely and fairly. And they cautioned that complaints with the process should be taken up through legal means, without recourse to the kind of violence that racked the country after its 2007 elections.

“It is important for all of the candidates to allow the process to be transparently put to the test,” former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is observing the election on behalf of the Carter Center, told CNN. “And then if they have a concern, go through the rule of law, go to the court process and let the evidence be there for everybody to see.”

Already, though, tensions have boiled over into violence in some of the slums of Nairobi. At least two people have been killed in protests led by opposition demonstrators.

The country has mobilized some 180,000 security officers to grapple with the potential for further unrest, according to the BBC.

The specter of the violence a decade ago still looms large in the memories of voters, officials and independent observers. More than 1,000 people were killed in a brutal bout of bloodshed that broke down largely along tribal lines.

And it’s not the only role the past has played in the turmoil of recent weeks. As Eyder noted, this election marks something of a culmination for Kenyatta and Odinga, whose rivalry dates back to the 1960s, when their fathers — who once served as president and vice president themselves — had a bitter falling out.

Odinga has said this campaign, his fourth bid for president, will be his last.

“We do not want to see any violence in Kenya. We know the consequences of what happened in 2008 and we don’t want to see a repeat of that anymore,” he told CNN on Thursday.

But Odinga added: “I don’t control anybody. What is happening is that people just want to see justice.”

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