NAIROBI, Several people were injured in protests in Kenya on Wednesday, a day after opposition leader Raila Odinga announced he would quit the presidential race, in a move that plunged the country into uncharted waters.
Election officials have been locked in crisis meetings since the decision, as debate raged over what Odinga’s move could mean for a dramatic election saga that saw President Uhuru Kenyatta’s August 8 victory annulled by the Supreme Court.
Kenyatta insists an Oct 26 do-over must go ahead.
But longtime rival Odinga says his withdrawal legally forces election officials to begin the entire process from scratch — a move that leaves more time for his reform demands to be met.
However, the nation’s electoral commission (IEBC) said Wednesday it had not received formal notice of his withdrawal and regarded all original candidates as still on the slate.
“We appeal for calm and dialogue among all players to ensure that elections are successfully held and for the country to move forward,” the commission said.
To maintain pressure, Odinga’s opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition called for protests to take place every day from next week.
In Odinga’s western stronghold of Kisumu, thousands of protesters took to the street, blocking roads, setting heaps of tyres alight and engaging in running battles with police.
Doctor Juliana Otieno at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Hospital — named after Odinga’s father — said three patients had been admitted with gunshot wounds.
“Up to now we have received about 23 (injured). Three of them are gunshot injuries. One is badly injured. The rest are small injuries like bruises and teargas that damaged their eyes.”
In Nairobi police briefly teargassed protesters who threw stones at passing cars.
However, the crowd later dispersed peacefully after speeches from opposition leaders.
Kenya’s Supreme Court last month annulled the August election citing widespread irregularities in the counting process and mismanagement by election officials, and called for a re-run within 60 days.
Protest violence immediately after the August election left 37 people dead, mostly at the hands of police, according to a Kenyan rights group.
Since then a series of demonstrations have seen police teargas protesters, who in some cases have grown violent.
The country still has grim memories of the perils of post-election violence, with a disputed 2007 poll sparking politically-motivated tribal clashes that left some 1,100 dead.
– New election laws –
On Wednesday Kenya’s national assembly — dominated by the ruling Jubilee party — approved a series of electoral law changes that Odinga has argued will make the “irregularities” cited by the Supreme Court, legal.
Among these is a law stating that if one candidate withdraws the remaining candidate is declared elected.
However, it is unclear if this would apply to the current election.
The amendments, which now go to the Senate, will also allow manual vote counting to supersede electronically transmitted results and make tally forms count even if there is “a deviation from the requirements of the form”.
Among the irregularities noted by the Supreme Court was the number of vote tallying sheets that were unsigned, not stamped, or did not contain watermarks or serial numbers — despite one company being hired to print them.
In another plot twist, Kenya’s High Court on Wednesday ruled that a third presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot of the Thirdway Alliance, who scored less than one percent of the vote in the annulled election, should be allowed on the ballot.
However the Supreme Court has previously ruled that only the petitioner and respondent in the case challenging the election outcome should stand in a re-run, and this decision is likely to stand.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK