Kenya opposition leader urges vote boycott, civil disobedience

Raila Odinga
Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Kenya opposition leader, Raila Odinga, has urged supporters to boycott Thursday’s repeat presidential election and persuade their friends to do the same, saying he would lead a campaign of civil disobedience against the government.

Mr. Odinga told a cheering crowd of thousands of people on Wednesday in Uhuru Park, Nairobi that he has however backed away from previous promises to hold large-scale protests on Election Day.

“We advise Kenyans who value democracy and justice to hold vigil and prayers away from polling stations, or just stay at home,” he said.

“Convince your friends, neighbours and everyone else not participate, but if they support the president, do not insult or assault them, instead, seek to open their eye.”

Election officials said the repeat presidential poll would go ahead regardless of Mr. Odinga’s decision.

The repeat election was ordered by the Supreme Court after judges nullified the results of an August 8 presidential contest over procedural grounds.

Mr. Odinga is refusing to participate because he said that the election commission has failed to implement reforms to prevent another failed poll.

The Supreme Court was due to hear cases seeking to delay the polls but was unable to do so after five out of seven judges had failed to turn up, preventing a quorum.

Minutes after Chief Justice David Maraga said the case could not be heard, hundreds of supporters took to the streets of Kisumu, Mr. Odinga’s main stronghold.

A Reuters witness said riot police used teargas to disperse them. Two protesters had gunshot wounds.

“If the government subverts the sovereign will of the people then people are entitled to rebel against this government,” Kisumu governor, Anyang Nyong‘o, a hardline Odinga supporter, told journalists in Kisumu.

Such comments seem certain to fuel fears of a major confrontation with security forces, already blamed for killing nearly 50 people in Kisumu and Nairobi slums after the canceled August vote.

For some in East Africa’s economic powerhouse, the instability has rekindled memories of large-scale ethnic violence that killed 1,200 people following a disputed election in 2007.

(Reuters/NAN)

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