Kenya's opposition leader urges voters to 'stay home' on election day

Wednesday October 25 2017

Supporters of National Super Alliance (N

Supporters of National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential candidate Raila Odinga throw rocks next to burning tyres blocking the road, during a demonstration on the boycott of the upcoming elections on Wednesday in Kisumu, Kenya. Kenya's repeat presidential election looked set to go ahead after a last-ditch bid to delay the highly contentious vote failed on October 25, when the Supreme Court was unable to reach a quorum. AFP photo 

By Agencies

Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga urged his supporters to boycott Thursday's presidential re-run election, claiming it would not be free and fair.

"What we do tomorrow: one, do not participate in any way in the sham election, two, convince your friends, neighbours and everyone else not to participate," he told a crowd of thousands in Nairobi Wednesday. He called on them to "hold vigils and prayers away from polling stations, or just stay at home."

Kenya's presidential election has plunged the country into political turmoil.

The result of the original August vote, won by President Uhuru Kenyatta, was annulled by the Supreme Court after a legal challenge from Odinga, who then withdrew from the re-run the judges ordered claiming lack of reforms at the election commission meant the vote would not be free and fair.

After a flurry of last-minute legal challenges failed to halt the election, Odinga told his supporters not to take part.

"Fellow Kenyans, tomorrow we begin with new determination the battle for electoral justice," Odinga said, declaring that to participate would be to "succumb to dictatorship".


He called on his supporters "to resist dictatorship and to fight to restore a government established in compliance with the constitution."

"We must rise to the occasion and save democracy not only for ourselves but for all of Africa," Odinga said.


Poll chief confirms Thursday election to go ahead

Kenya's poll chief confirmed Wednesday that a highly-contentious election would take place as scheduled, despite the absence of opposition leader Raila Odinga and numerous concerns over its credibility.

 "Based on assurances given to this commission by the relevant authorities and security agencies, based on the progress that has been made in the commission, the election as scheduled will go ahead tomorrow, the 26th of October," said Wafula Chebukati, head of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

With Odinga refusing to participate and numerous last-minute legal battles over the election's legitimacy, there has been a big question mark over whether the vote would actually take place.

Last week, Chebukati said he could not guarantee the election would be credible, free, and fair, citing internal divisions in the IEBC and interference from political leaders.

He also said an election official's house had been "burned to ashes".

Despite confirming the poll would go ahead, Chebukati was downbeat, saying when "midwifing democracy... becomes as risky as going to war, then we are at our lowest".

In the run-up to the initial election on August 8, whose result was ultimately overturned, top IEBC IT official Chris Msando was tortured and murdered.