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Gloves come off in Kenya ahead of new presidential vote

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Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses a crowd on September 1, 2017 in a Nairobi susburb, following an announcement by the country’s Supreme Court that Kenya’s August 8 election, in which Uhuru was declared winner, had been cancelled. Kenya’s Supreme Court on September 1 ordered a new presidential election within 60 days, after a shock ruling cancelling the results of last month’s poll over widespread irregularities. TONY KARUMBA / AFP

Sparks were flying in Kenya on Sunday as the main rival of President Uhuru Kenyatta called for the ousting of members of the country’s election commission, likening them to “hyenas”, while judges slammed “veiled threats” by the president after the shock annulment of his re-election victory.

Raila Odinga, who will now get another shot against Kenyatta in an election to be held within two months, said he had no faith in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), and called for its members to be expelled from Kenya.

“Those IEBC thieves must go. We will not allow them to conduct the fresh elections,” Odinga told supporters after attending mass in Nairobi.

“We can’t take our goats where they will be taken care of by hyenas,” he said. “Hyenas cannot take care of goats.”

Later Sunday, in the Nairobi slum of Mathare, an opposition bastion where at least 21 people were killed in violence which followed the August 11 announcement of Kenyatta’s re-election, Odinga told a crowd of thousands: “Everything has been exposed now”.

“That was not an election,” he said, while dismissing claims that he would seek to avoid a new election by agreeing to a power-sharing deal.

“We will get the full loaf after elections, because we will win,” he said.

‘There is a problem’

On Friday, Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga declared Kenyatta’s victory in the August 8 poll “invalid, null and void”, citing widespread irregularities in the electronic transmission of vote results.

Kenyan media have hailed the decision as a hard-fought victory for the rule of law, and a sign of a maturing democracy.

It is the first time a presidential election result has been overturned in Africa, and follows three failed bids by Odinga for the presidency, in 1997, 2007 and 2013.

But an enraged Kenyatta, while saying he would respect the decision, lashed out at the judges, saying: “Every time we do something a judge comes out and places an injunction. It can’t go on like this… there is a problem and we must fix it.

“Maraga thinks he can overturn the will of the people. We shall show you… that the will of the people cannot be overturned by a few people.”

On Friday he also slammed the judges as “crooks”.

‘Assault’ on the judiciary

Calling Kenyatta’s remarks “an assault on the judiciary”, the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association (KMJA) late Saturday asked people to ignore “political rhetoric”.

“The president of this country referred to the president of the Supreme Court and the other judges as “wakora”, or crooks in Swahili, said the association’s chief, Bryan Khaemba.

“He went on to make veiled threats against the same judges based on their decision. The same threats against the judiciary have been repeated at State House,” he said, referring to the presidential palace.

“We condemn this assault on the decisional independence of the honourable judges.”

The electoral commission has vowed to make “internal changes” ahead of the new vote, though its chairman, Wafula Chebukati, ruled out resigning himself.

The current crop of IEBC commissioners took office only seven months before the election, after their predecessors were forced to step down following widespread protests.

The previous commission had been tarnished by a corruption scandal and its handling of flawed 2013 elections, which saw a series of high-tech safeguards failing on election day.



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