Raila says still possible to ‘reconsider’ vote pullout
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 19 – Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said Thursday he could “reconsider” his decision to quit the country’s troubled election race, provided there was “proper” headway on electoral reform.
“If proper consultations are done and if proper reforms are carried out, and those fears that we raised are addressed, that made us pull out of this race, then we will reconsider,” Odinga said.
“But as it stands right now, our position is (as) we announced it yesterday,” he warned.
Odinga made the remarks after meeting Wafula Chebukati, head of the Kenyan election board, just a week before presidential elections that have plunged the country into a deep crisis.
It will be the second election this year — the Supreme Court last month overturned the outcome of an initial vote on August 8 that had officially been won by Odinga’s fierce long-term rival, President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The court, in a historic ruling, declared there had been “irregularities” in the counting process and mismanagement by poll officials.
On Wednesday Odinga addressed a rally of thousands of supporters, vowing there would be “no election” and his party would stage massive nationwide rallies on polling day.
“Protests will go on, on the 26th (there) will be the biggest demonstrations in the whole country,” he said.
– Police attack rights activist –
Odinga announced last week that he would not take part in the ballot because of problems at Chebukati’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
But he has yet to formally withdraw his name, a move that would officially give the ground to Kenyatta.
On Thursday, he said “our fears and concerns” about the IEBC had been confirmed by the turn of events the day before, in statements by Chebukati and by an IEBC board member, Roselyn Akombe, who has quit over alleged turmoil in the panel. Both cast doubt on the prospects of a credible election.
“It is now clear to everybody that (a) conducive environment does not exist for a free and fair electoral process,” Odinga said.
On Wednesday, Chebukati urged Odinga and Kenyatta to meet with him to ease tension.
But Kenyatta has refused any postponement of the election and said any “dialogue” should focus on how to ensure that next Thursday’s election proceeds smoothly and peacefully.
“That is the only dialogue that is on the table, an election(…),” he said during a live chat with voters on Facebook.
“We are ready to dialogue at any time on how we will conduct ourselves during the election.”
Kenya’s IEBC has a controversial history. It presided over a deeply flawed poll in 2007 which triggered violence that killed over 1,100 people.
After elections in 2013, the board was accused of bias, mismanagement and corruption, leading to the resignation of commissioners last year under the pressure of violent protests.
This year’s elections have left 40 people dead — three in recent days and the others in the wake of the August 8 election — mostly at the hands of police according to human rights groups.
On Thursday well-known Kenyan rights activist Boniface Mwangi was beaten by police and shot in the chest with a teargas canister at a protest against police brutality in Nairobi, an AFP photographer witnessed