Kenyans fear violence during tense election rerun
Amid heightened tensions and fears of violence, Kenya is set to host a rerun of the presidential election on 26th October, after a Supreme Court ruling on 1st September annulled the results of the 8th August 2017 presidential election. In the meantime, on 10th October main opposition candidate Raila Odinga withdrew from the rerun, arguing that the nine reforms the NASA Coalition had demanded from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had not been met.
Concerns that the rerun election will not be credible and free persist, and even some senior IEBC officials have made their doubts public. On 18th October, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said that he could not guarantee the credibility of the elections on 26th October, hours after IEBC commissioner Roselyn Akombe resigned and fled to the U.S., stating that she had received anonymous death threats. In a statement, Akombe said that IEBC is "under siege" and has become a contributor to the current crisis, as "this election as planned cannot meet the basic expectations of a credible election".
Observers, experts and civil society actors have called for the rerun to be postponed. We-the-People - an initiative comprised of trade unions, civil society organisations, members of academia, the media and wananchi (ordinary citizens) at large - issued a press statement on 23rd October regarding the political situation in Kenya, declaring that:
"it is not possible to hold a free, fair and credible election on October 26, 2017 as scheduled. We-the-People therefore demand that the election scheduled for October 26 be called off".
The International Crisis Group has likewise called on the electoral commission to petition the Supreme Court to delay the elections by 30 to 45 days.
A last-minute Supreme Court hearing to address a petition from three Kenyan voters, including one human right activist, to delay the 26th October rerun failed to take place on 25th October, as only two judges appeared, three short of the quorum of five needed to proceed. Chief Justice David Maraga said one judge was unwell, another was abroad, and Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu was unable to attend because her bodyguard was shot and wounded by unknown gunmen on Tuesday night. It was unclear why the others did not show up.
That same day Raila Odinga urged Kenyans to boycott the elections during a speech in Uhuru Park in Nairobi, and said that his political alliance will be transformed into a "national resistance movement", promising civil disobedience.
Security forces have used excessive force to quell protests in the aftermath of the 8th August elections, raising fears of what to expect with the rerun on 26th October. According to a 15th October joint report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch entitled - "'Kill those Criminals': Security Forces' Violations in Kenya's August 2017 Elections"- police have killed at least 33 people, possibly as many as 50, and injured hundreds during repressions of protests that followed the 8th August elections in some opposition strongholds in parts of Nairobi. The report "Mirage at Dusk" by the Kenya National Human Rights Commission documented 37 deaths due to police use of excessive force at opposition protests.
Since opposition leader Raila Odinga's withdrawal from the election, opposition supporters have staged protests, some of which have turned violent, destroying property and leading to several injuries. On 26th September, police used batons and lobbed teargas canisters to disperse two rival groups as protests erupted in Nairobi. On 11th October, protests in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu led to at least 17 people injured during clashes with the police, where the police was accused of using live ammunition.
On 12th October 2017, during a press conference, Acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi said that the central business districts and the city centres of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu are considered "no-go zones" for protesters, and that the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government will give guidelines governing public processions and demonstrations. On 20th October, police reported that four people had been killed as a result of police intervention during opposition demonstrations over the preceding two weeks.
In a letter to the inter-governmental organisation - International Law Development Organization (IDLO) - Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed suspended the bilateral agreement between Kenya and the IDLO, thereby ending its activities in Kenya. The ruling Jubilee party has accused the IDLO of influencing the judiciary by funding researchers who work for judges.