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Kenya opposition leader vows to 'remove' Kenyatta government

Raila Odinga greets supporters after a rally in the Mathare slum in Nairobi on Sunday. Photograph: Siegfried Modola/Reuters



By Jason Burke | TheGuardian

Raila Odinga, the leader of Kenya’s opposition, has pledged to continue his campaign to overturn the result of the election last week in which Uhuru Kenyatta won a second five-year presidential term by a margin of 9%.

In his first speech since the vote, Odinga told supporters in poor neighbourhoods in Nairobi, the site of violent in clashes between protesters and police, to stay at home and out of the way of the authorities.

At least 16 people have died in the violence since Friday night, including an eight-year-old girl.

A series of election observers and western officials have called on losers in the election to accept defeat, and said they had found no evidence of “centralised manipulation”.

Odinga, 72, vowed to “remove” the government of Kenyatta and said his supporters should observe a day of mourning for casualties over the weekend on Monday rather than go to work.

“We had predicted they will steal the election and that’s what happened. We are not done yet. We will not give up,” he told an excited crowd of several thousand gathered on a rubble- and rubbish-strewn wasteland in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum and an opposition stronghold.

“He is our president, our father. He cares for us and he cares for the nation,” said Vivian Juma, a 20-year-old student.

Opposition officials have repeatedly described the election results as a “fraud” and claimed that Odinga, who leads the National Super Alliance (NASA), was the “legitimate” winner.

Odinga’s claims of rigging after defeat in 2007 elections prompted rioting and retaliation by security forces, which tipped the country into its worst crisis for decades. About 1,200 people were killed in the campaign of ethnic violence that followed.

A local election observer group, ELOG, which deployed 8,300 observers and conducted a parallel tallying operation, determined that Kenyatta had won with 54% – the same figure given by the electoral commission.

On Sunday, parts of Nairobi and the western city of Kisumu, where protests had led to clashes on Friday and Saturday, were calm. In Nairobi, traffic was heavier as life began to return to normal.

The election was Odinga’s fourth failed shot at the presidency. In 2013 he said the election was rigged and took his case to the supreme court, but lost.

This time his party officials have said court is not an option and, in an interview on Sunday, the veteran politician said he would seek some kind of international arbitration, possibly by the United Nations.

“We will get justice. We will not accept this situation,” said David Otelo, 20, as he listened to Odinga’s speech in Kabira.

Observers saw last week’s poll as the final act of a dynastic rivalry between the families of Kenyatta, 55, and Odinga that has lasted more than half a century. The candidates’ fathers, Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Odinga, having been allies in the struggle for independence from Britain, later became bitter rivals.

Kenyatta is from the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest ethnic community, and Odinga from the Luo, which has long felt marginalised. Both men built coalitions with other influential communities in a country where voting still takes place largely along ethnic lines.

Many Kenyans say that the potential for violence is reduced now because the country has learned from the traumatic experience of 2007.

Kenyatta reached out to the opposition after his victory, calling for unity and cooperation.

Odinga’s NASA did well on the Kenya’s coastal east, in strongholds in Nairobi and the west. Kenyatta’s Jubilee party surprised some observers by doing better than expected in voting for parliamentary representatives and local elected officials.

Police have been criticised for heavy-handed tactics and the use of live ammunition to control crowds of protesters.

Manoah Esipisu, a spokesman for the president, said any peaceful protests are a constitutional right and would be protected by police. “But sadly, we have seen violent protests, in which property has been damaged, and lives have been endangered,” Esipisu said. “The violent protests are unlawful … The police will … protect the lives and property of Kenyans; and they will restore law and order.”

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