Five months on, Kenya opposition leader insists vote was 'stolen'

By Hillary ORINDE
Kenya Opposition leader Raila Odinga left lost to President William Ruto by 200,000 votes.  By Patrick Meinhardt, Simon MAINA AFPFile
JAN 23, 2023 LISTEN
Opposition leader Raila Odinga (left) lost to President William Ruto by 200,000 votes. By Patrick Meinhardt, Simon MAINA (AFP/File)

Kenya's opposition chief Raila Odinga insisted Monday he was the rightful winner of last year's bitterly-fought election, doubling down on claims of fraud five months after the vote.

Odinga narrowly lost the August 9 poll to William Ruto, according to official results, despite enjoying the backing of the then ruling party.

"We are convinced -- beyond the shadow of a doubt -- that our victory was stolen," the 78-year-old political veteran told a rally attended by thousands of people in the east of the capital Nairobi.

Citing data from a whistleblower within the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that oversaw the vote, Odinga claimed he won by more than two million votes.

After the results were announced, he had alleged fraud and hacking of the election commission's servers and contested the results in an ultimately unsuccessful case lodged at Kenya's top court.

But the Supreme Court delivered a unanimous verdict in favour of Ruto, saying there was no evidence to back Odinga's claims.

On Monday, Odinga rejected the legitimacy of Ruto's presidency and demanded he resign, saying he had neither "the mandate nor the ability to govern the country".

"We cannot and will not recognise the Kenya Kwanza regime and we consider the Kenya Kwanza government illegitimate," Odinga said, referring to Ruto's coalition party.

Odinga, who has long cast himself as an anti-establishment firebrand, called for an audit of the election records by an impartial body.

In August, four out of the seven election commissioners said they could not recognise the results and described the tallying process as "opaque".

Ruto, who defeated his challenger by some 200,000 votes according to the results, vowed Monday not to succumb to the demands of the opposition.

"Look for a different person to threaten. I was elected by Kenyans in broad daylight. For you, you had the system, the deep state and the government, but we defeated you," he charged.

Ruto defended the IEBC as having conducted a clean poll. Last week he claimed there had been a plot to kidnap and murder the body's chairman Wafula Chebukati to "subvert the people's sovereignty".

Since 2002, no presidential poll outcome in Kenya has gone uncontested, with Odinga previously claiming to have been cheated of victory in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 polls.