Odinga opts for 'dissent, peaceful' protests

Kenyan opposition leader of the National Super Alliance coalition Raila Odinga yesterday rejected the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta. Image : THOMAS MUKOYA
Kenyan opposition leader of the National Super Alliance coalition Raila Odinga yesterday rejected the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta. Image : THOMAS MUKOYA

Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga yesterday promised a campaign of civil disobedience and protest against a presidential election he boycotted last week, keeping alive his long-held dream of winning the nation's top job.

The 72-year-old, a one-time prime minister, has been the mainstay of Kenyan politics since the 1980s, but despite four attempts, has never won the presidency.

For this year's election, originally held in August, Odinga led a coalition called the National Super Alliance (Nasa), overcoming traditional opposition divisions in what he saw as a sure-fire plan to defeat incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, 56, and his ruling Jubilee Party.

When Kenyatta won, Odinga cried foul and took his complaints to the Supreme Court, where a shock ruling overturning the result handed him a rare political victory.

However, Odinga dug in his heels over reforms to the electoral commission, and pulled out of the October 26 election with two weeks to go, insisting it would be neither free nor fair.

His boycott worked, leaving Kenyatta to take a 98% landslide, but with a turnout of just 39%, down from 80% in August. Yesterday, he rejected what he called a "sham and fraudulent exercise".

"This election must not stand. If allowed to stand, it will make a complete mockery of elections," Odinga said.

"We will not allow two megalomaniacs to destroy the dreams of democracy," he said, referring to Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

"We shall see to it that we conduct a free, fair and credible election as ordered by the Supreme Court."

Odinga hopes to achieve this through a campaign of "dissent" and peaceful protest.

Odinga's backers among the Luos believe they are being denied political power by a cabal of Kikuyu elites currently led by Kenyatta. Odinga argues that a fair election would result in his victory, and his supporters believe him.

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