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In dramatic turn of events, Kenya's opposition leader quits

Sheetal Sukhija - Wednesday 11th October, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya - In a dramatic turn of events ahead of the historic Kenyan election re-run, scheduled to take place on October 26, now the country’s opposition leader Raila Odinga has pulled out of the race.

In a historic ruling on September 1, for the first time on the continent, a court ruled against the electoral victory of an incumbent.

The Supreme Court nullified the presidential election ruling on a petition against the election board brought by the coalition of the veteran opposition leader, Odinga. 

In a majority judgement, the court ordered the electoral body to hold a repeat vote within 60 days and said there were irregularities in tallying results of the poll.

Odinga, who brought the petition against the election board to the Supreme Court said after the ruling, "For the first time in the history of African democratization, a ruling has been made by a court nullifying the election of a president. This indeed is a very historic day for the people of Kenya and by extension the people of the continent of Africa."

Odinga also railed against the national election body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

He added, “We have no faith in the electoral commission as currently constituted. They have committed criminal acts. Most of them actually belong in jail and therefore we are going to ask prosecution for all the electoral commission officials who have committed this monstrous crime against the people of Kenya. This is a triumph for the people of Kenya."

The opposition argued that the vote had been hacked and electronically manipulated to assure a victory for President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kenyatta was re-elected with 54 percent of the vote, easily surpassing the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. 

Odinga, his main challenger, received about 44 percent, a difference of about 1.4 million votes. 

A parallel tally by domestic observers endorsed the official result.

The August election, which included the presidential poll in addition to races at other levels of government was one of the most expensive ever held in Africa. 

A day after Kenya's Supreme Court invalidated the result, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that the country has “a problem” with its judiciary

Stressing that the problem with the judiciary must be fixed, Kenyatta said on live television at a the State House in Nairobi, “We shall revisit this thing. We clearly have a problem. Who even elected you? Were you? We have a problem and we must fix it.”

He, however, noted that he would respect the court’s ruling.

Several protests broke out post the decision, leading to some people suffering injuries in clashes with the police.

Further, David Maraga, the chief justice and president of the Supreme Court issued a statement claiming that threats against judicial staff had risen since the ruling.

Odinga has now said that his withdrawal would give the electoral commission enough time to introduce reforms that will help deliver a more credible election.

Odinga said on Tuesday, "We have come to the conclusion that there is no intention on the part of the IEBC [electoral commission] to undertake any changes to its operations and personnel... All indications are that the election scheduled for 26 October will be worse than the previous one."

As a result, he said, "considering the interests of the people of Kenya, the region and the world at large" it was best that he withdrew from the race.

Earlier, the opposition party clarified that its participation in the election was contingent on reforms being made.

It believes the election will have to be cancelled as a result of Odinga's withdrawal, allowing "adequate time to undertake the reforms necessary to conduct an election that is in strict conformity with the constitution, the relevant laws and the constitution.”

Previously, the government has said the election will be held as usual and the president will be sworn in.

Meanwhile, Odinga has also called on people to protest on Wednesday, using the slogan "no reform, no elections.”

In September, Kenya's director of public prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, asked the police and anti-corruption agency to investigate whether any electoral or criminal offences had been committed by members of the electoral commission.

Further, he had been asked investigators to examine allegations that two senior opposition officials had gained illegal access to the commission's servers.

He added that although no individual had been blamed, this did not prevent the court from ordering an investigation.

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