Clashes in Kenya after opposition leader claims election fraud

Man dies in machete attack at tallying centre as Raila Odinga says systems tampered with

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga  addresses a news conference on the concluded presidential election in Nairobi on Wednesday. Photgraph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga addresses a news conference on the concluded presidential election in Nairobi on Wednesday. Photgraph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

 

Protesters and police in Kenya have clashed after the leader of the opposition claimed he was cheated of victory by a hacking attack that he said manipulated the results in the country’s presidential election.

Raila Odinga, the leader of the National Super Alliance, said election commission computer systems and databases were tampered with overnight to “create errors” in favour of rival candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been in power since 2013.

Mr Odinga urged his supporters to remain calm, but added: “I don’t control the people.”

“You can only cheat the people for so long,” he said. “The 2017 general election was a fraud.”

With ballots from 96 per cent of polling stations counted, results released by Kenya’s electoral commission show Mr Kenyatta leading with 54.4 per cent of the vote, against Mr Odinga’s 44.8 per cent, a difference of 1.4 million votes.

The election is seen as a key test of the stability of one of Africa’s most important countries.

Anti-riot policemen deployed after protesters set tyres on fire in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
Anti-riot policemen deployed after protesters set tyres on fire in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Six people died in clashes around the country but an uneasy calm mostly prevailed.

An election official was killed when a machete-wielding gang attacked a tallying centre in the coastal Tana River county and police shot dead two attackers. The official had been working for the ruling Jubilee party, said Hassan Barisa, a resident of Hola in Galole.

In the western city of Kisumu police fired teargas at a group of 100 opposition supporters who had been chanting: “No Raila, no peace.”

Protests were also held in the poor Nairobi neighbourhood of Mathare, an Odinga stronghold.

At about 2pm, two young men were killed and five injured when police opened fire on demonstrators who had blocked a road, a witness said.

Japheth Koome, Nairobi police chief, said the men who had been shot were thieves.

Scattered clashes in Mathare continued throughout the afternoon, with groups of youths hurling rocks at police who responded with teargas.

“We want them to hear. They won’t hear us shouting. So we will use stones. We know our rights and they can’t kill us all,” said Kevin Odhiambo, a 25-year-old carpenter in Mathare.

But others from the neighbourhood branded the protesters “troublemakers”.

Another death occurred when police opened fire in Kisii county, 300km west of the capital.

Kenya Railways suspended operations of trains on its recently launched line from Mombasa to Nairobi – a flagship infrastructure project – until further notice.

In 2007, Mr Odinga’s angry rejection of the result in an election marred by irregularities prompted rioting and retaliation by security forces that tipped the country into its worst crisis for decades. About 1,200 people were killed in the ethnic violence that followed.

Mr Odinga, a polarising figure who was making his fourth bid for power, also claimed that the murder of a senior election official last week was linked to the alleged hacking attack. Chris Msando, the election commission’s head of IT, was found strangled and tortured in a forest on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Mr Odinga (72) said Mr Msando’s identity and log-ins had been used to access key computer servers by those behind the rigging attempt.

The EU observer mission declined to comment on Mr Odinga’s claims, which election officials have said they will investigate. “We will come up with a methodology to verify the allegations made on hacking,” said Waguma Chebukati, the chair of the electoral commission. “For now, I cannot say whether or not the system has been hacked.”

The Kenya human rights commission – a well-known non-governmental organisation – said it had discovered some discrepancies in an initial comparison between provisional results announced by the election commission and paper forms signed at polling stations by party agents.

In coming days, election officials will present more forms allowing further scrutiny of the results.

Many Kenyans say a repeat of the extent of the violence of 2007 is unlikely as the country has learned from the traumatic experience. One voter said during polling that younger citizens wanted “peace, peace, peace”.

In 2013, Odinga also rejected defeat. He took his fight to the courts and lost.

Guardian service/Reuters