NAIROBI, Kenya: The leader of Kenya’s main opposition party urged his supporters to boycott a rerun of the country’s disputed presidential election scheduled for Thursday amid rising political tensions and fears of violence.
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga urged his political coalition to become a “resistance movement” and called on them to boycott Thursday’s repeat presidential election.
“Do not participate,” he said at a rally in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park of Thursday’s re-run of the presidential election.
The country’s Supreme Court on Wednesday failed to muster enough judges to hear a last-minute petition to postpone the elections.
Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga appeared alone in the courtroom and said that only he and one other judge had shown up for the hearing. The shooting of one judge’s driver the evening before raised fears about intimidation of the judiciary.
Outside the court, hundreds of women in white scarves gathered to call for peace amid rising uncertainty and fears of violence. Jubilant supporters of President Uhuru Kenyatta celebrated the news that the elections will proceed.
In Uhuru Park hundreds of opposition supporters gathered to hear Odinga speak. Police had earlier banned the rally, but stood back and allowed it to take place.
The Supreme Court hearing was to hear a petition filed by three Kenyans, including a human rights activist, who urged the court to postpone Thursday’s election, arguing that electoral officials have said they cannot ensure the polls will be free, fair and credible.
Harun Ndubi, a lawyer for the petitioners, suggested that some judges who did not attend the hearing may have violated their constitutional duties.
“The justices must forever be available,” said Ndubi, though he acknowledged that the deputy chief justice whose police driver was injured in a shooting Tuesday evening may have been genuinely troubled.
“For the others, I don’t buy their explanation,” he said. “I don’t see a credible or legitimate election happening tomorrow,” Ndubi said, adding that the vote, if it occurs Thursday, “would be a farce.”
Busloads of opposition supporters arrived for a rally at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, despite a police ban on the gathering. Opposition leader Raila Odinga is scheduled to address the demonstration. Police were at the park, but kept their distance from the opposition supporters. The mood at the rally was mostly cheerful and even celebratory. People danced, blew whistles and vuvuzelas, and banged drums. Orange caps and T-shirts with Odinga’s initials, R.A.O., were handed out to the delight of the crowd.
Across the country, at the opposition stronghold of Kisumu, in western Kenya, Odinga supporters suggested they would disrupt Thursday’s elections.
The Supreme Court court shocked Kenya last month when it nullified President Kenyatta’s August re-election, citing irregularities and illegalities and the electoral commission’s unwillingness to let court-appointed technicians scrutinize its computer system. Opposition leader Odinga had challenged Kenyatta’s victory, claiming hackers had infiltrated the computer servers and manipulated the vote.
Odinga has said he will boycott the new election because the electoral commission has not been reformed. Kenyatta has insisted the Thursday vote will continue.