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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Kenyan opposition demands Odinga be declared election winner

Election panel reveals unsuccessful attempt to hack voter database, while international observers praise poll 

Kenyan riot police fire tear gas at protesters during clashes in the Kawangware area of Nairobi on August 10, 2017. Ben Curtis / AP Photo
Kenyan riot police fire tear gas at protesters during clashes in the Kawangware area of Nairobi on August 10, 2017. Ben Curtis / AP Photo

Kenya's opposition on Thursday demanded that veteran leader Raila Odinga be declared winner of the presidential election, even though the official count of the ballots gave incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta a commanding lead.

Musalia Mudavadi, a senior official in the opposition coalition, said that information from "confidential sources" at the election commission showed Mr Odinga had secured victory by just under 300,000 votes, but provided no evidence.

The opposition claim came after the chairman of Kenya's election commission said its database had been targeted by a hacking attempt that was unsuccessful, contradicting allegations by Mr Odinga that hackers were able to infiltrate the computer system and manipulate results against him.

International observers on Thursday praised the handling of the election and the European Union mission said it had seen no sign of manipulation in Tuesday's vote.

Provisional results released by the election commission showed Mr Kenyatta had won 54.3 per cent of votes, ahead of Mr Odinga on 44.8 per cent — a lead of 1.4 million votes with 97 per cent of polling stations reported. the final result is expected on Friday

Election-related violence led to four deaths on Wednesday, although the capital Nairobi and most of the country were mainly calm on Thursday.

In its first assessment of Tuesday's poll, the European Union's election observer mission said it had seen no signs of "centralised or localised manipulation" of the voting process.

Marietje Schaake, head of the mission, said the EU would provide an analysis of the tallying process in a later report.

John Kerry, the former US secretary of state heading the Carter Centre observer mission, said the election system, which is ultimately based on the original paper ballots cast, remained solid and all sides should wait for electronic tallies to be double-checked against hard copies.

"The process that was put in place is proving its value thus far," Mr Kerry said. "Kenya has made a remarkable statement to Africa and the world about its democracy and the character of that democracy. Don't let anybody besmirch that."

Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president in charge of the Africa Union observer mission, also praised the poll so far.

"It would be very regrettable if anything emerges afterwards that sought to corrupt the outcome, to spoil that outcome," he said.

As they wait for final results to be tallied and confirmed, many Kenyans are nervous of a repeat of the clashes that killed about 1,200 people after a bitterly contested 2007 election.

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Angry protests had erupted in opposition strongholds in Nairobi and the western city of Kisumu, an opposition stronghold on Wednesday, with demonstrators burning tyres in the streets.

Police shot dead one protester in Nairobi. One person was killed by a machete-wielding gang that attacked a tally centre in coastal Tana River county, and police shot dead two of the assailants.

On Thursday morning, some market stalls and shops were open in Kisumu and more motorcycles and vehicles were on the street than a day earlier.

A group of labourers and transporters sitting in the shade said they were eager for daily life to return.

"We don't want to fight," said driver Evans Omondi, 28. "We want to go back to work."

The men said they were worried by Mr Odinga's allegations but said they could not afford the consequences of violence in their city, which saw some of the worst clashes a decade ago.

Mr Kenyatta, a 55-year-old businessman seeking a second five-year term, has held a lead of about 10 per cent from the start of counting of Tuesday's vote, the culmination of a hard-fought contest between the heads of Kenya's two political dynasties.

Mr Odinga contested and lost Kenya's last two elections, which he also said were rigged. He has urged his supporters to remain calm but said: "I don't control the people."

He posted 50 pages of computer logs online to support his hacking claims, but they were "inconclusive", according to Matt Bernhard, who studies computer security in election systems at the University of Michigan.

In 2007, tallying was halted and the incumbent president declared the winner, triggering an outcry from Mr Odinga's camp and waves of ethnic violence that led to International Criminal Court charges against Kenyatta and his now-deputy, William Ruto.

The cases against them collapsed as witnesses died or disappeared.

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