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Kenya Count Could Face Court Challenges

Supporters of Kenya's Azimio La Umoja Party (One Kenya Coalition Party) presidential candidate Raila Odinga react past burning tyres during a protest against the results of Kenya's general election in Kibera, Nairobi, western Kenya on August 15, 2022.
Supporters of Kenya's Azimio La Umoja Party (One Kenya Coalition Party) presidential candidate Raila Odinga react past burning tyres during a protest against the results of Kenya's general election in Kibera, Nairobi, western Kenya on August 15, 2022.

UPDATED AGAIN: Kenya braced on Tuesday for a protracted legal battle after William Ruto was declared the victor in a closely fought presidential race over the objections of more than half the electoral commission, stoking fears of political violence.

A day after Kenya's Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission [IEBC] chairman Wafula Chebukati announced William Ruto as the winner of Kenya's presidential race, the losing side is speaking out.

Defeated candidate Raila Odinga publicly announced Tuesday that "figures announced by Mr. Chibukati are null and void and must be questioned by a court of law."

"What we saw yesterday (Monday) was a travesty and a blatant disregard of the constitution of Kenya," the 77-year-old former prime minister said.

"We totally and without reservations reject the presidential results."

Odinga vowed to pursue "all constitutional and legal options" after rejecting the outcome of last week's election that handed the presidency to his rival William Ruto by a narrow margin of around 230,000 votes.

"I do not want to fully address our strategies going forward but... we will be pursuing all constitutional and legal options available to us," he told reporters a day after the results were announced, without specifying if he would issue a court challenge.

Four of Kenya's seven election commissioners said on Tuesday they stood by their decision a day earlier to disown the result of the Aug. 9 presidential election, saying the final tallying process had been "opaque".

Speaking for the group, electoral commission deputy chairperson Juliana Cherera said the results that gave current deputy president William Ruto a wafer-thin victory over Raila Odinga were erroneously aggregated.

The four IEBC commissioners said that the parties should seek resolution through the courts.

Makau Mutua, the head of defeated candidate Raila Odinga's campaign think-tank, said officials of his Azimio La Umoja (Declaration of Unity) Alliance were discussing a course of action.

"We are consulting among ourselves," Mutua told Reuters by phone. "It is a top line issue ... all options are on the table. No option has been ruled out at this moment."

He said the message sent by the four commissioners who disowned the results, was that "the chair of the commission does not have the authority to decide unilaterally the final results of the election".

Ruto was declared the winner by Chairman Chebukati with 50.49% of the vote against Odinga's 48.5%, nor the four commissioners who disowned the results responded to a Reuters request for comment.

Chebukati said in the government's official publication that Ruto and running mate, Rigathi Gachagua were president-elect and deputy president-elect.

Any challenge must be made by Monday to the Supreme Court, which then has 14 days to issue a ruling. If it orders an annulment, a new vote must be held within 60 days.

If there is no court petition, Ruto will take the oath of office in two weeks' time, becoming Kenya's fifth president since independence.

With memories still fresh of past post-election bloodshed in usually stable Kenya, defeated candidate Raila Odinga is under local and international pressure to call for calm and seek to resolve any concerns over the election outcome in the courts.

In the western city of Kisumu and Nairobi's huge Kibera slum, both Odinga strongholds, quiet returned to the streets after protesters battled police and burned tyres overnight.

Businesses were open as normal in most of the country, and people in areas that voted overwhelmingly for Ruto were in a celebratory mood.

The dramatic events of Monday, which saw Ruto declared president by a tiny margin as a split emerged in the electoral commission overseeing the Aug. 9 vote, have raised fears of violence like that seen after disputed polls in 2007 and 2017.

African diplomats were among those calling for a peaceful resolution, adding their voices to those of the United Nations and the U.S. embassy in Kenya.

"In my view it is over," one African diplomat said. "Kenyans don't want it (the electoral process) to drag."

Another diplomat said: "I think all messaging (to Odinga) is in the same direction. He would be mad to trot out the same strategies as 2017" - a reference to Odinga's call for mass street protests after losing the last presidential election.

Then, more than 100 people were killed after the Supreme Court overturned the result citing anomalies in the voting process. A decade earlier, more than 1,200 people were killed in widespread violence after the 2007 presidential vote.

This report was compiled with information sourced from Reuters and Agence France-Presse