Odinga challenges defeat at Kenya Court

Supporters of Raila Odinga gather to support the defeated candidate’s move to petition the Supreme Court [EPA]
Al Jazeera

Police fire teargas at supporters as the defeated presidential contender files legal objection to election results.

Kenya’s defeated presidential contender Raila Odinga has filed a challenge to his election defeat, as police fired teargas to disperse his supporters who had gathered in front of the Supreme Court where the decision will be made.

Lawyers for Odinga, who is Kenya’s prime minister, called their petition before the Supreme Court on Saturday a “legitimate legal process” that ensures the will of the people is respected.

Odinga refuses to accept the slim first-round win by his opponent Uhuru Kenyatta, alleging collusion between the president-elect and the electoral commission.

Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from Nairobi, said that the Supreme Court had two weeks to decide to uphold the decision of Kenyatta as president or to have a run-off.

“Odinga regrets that five years ago, when he felt the election was stolen from him, there was no process for him to identify those responsible for election crimes.” Our correspondent said.

At least one person was wounded on Saturday as police quickly cleared the crowd from the front of the court building.

Some of the supporters wore T-shirts marked with slogans “I support the petition” and “Democracy on trial”, an echo of Odinga’s statement that his petition would be a test of democracy in Kenya.

“We are dealing with criminals who should not be in State House but in prison,” Odinga said on Thursday of his opponents. But, significantly, he is urging his supporters to stay calm as his case is heard in court.

Police hurled tear gas at the crowd, who pulled back before surging forward to within 50 metres of the Supreme Court’s gates.

Al Jazeera’s reporter described the situation outiside the court as calm after the petition was filed.

“The feeling outside the court among Odinga’s supporters is not violent. Odinga has been telling his supporters to wait for the results of the court decision – they can voice their opinions in the streets but it should not turn into a situation like 2007.”

Both Kenyatta and the electoral commission deny colluding to rig the election.

Kenya’s March 4 election was the first since disputes over a 2007 poll triggered tribal clashes in which more than 1,200 people were killed.

Messages of hate

Unlike the bloody violence that scarred the country five years ago, this time the fighting is largely online.

Machete strikes and bows and arrows are being replaced by bitter Tweets and angry status updates.

The expletive-filled fights in social media have the government worried. The Ministry of Information and Communications said this week that it had been unable to contain “the ugly messages of hate and negative ethnicity” online.

It said many of the messages qualify as hate speech. Some officials worry that the virtual feuding could trigger real-life fighting.
Follow our in-depth spotlight coverage of the vote

Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, was declared the winner of the presidential poll on March 9.

Kenyatta, one of Africa’s richest men, faces trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague in July for his alleged role in orchestrating the violence.

The president-elect, who avoided a second-round run-off vote by the slimmest of margins to win a majority with just 50.07 percent, beat Odinga – his closest rival – by more than 800,000 votes.

Odinga, who won 43.31 percent of the votes in his third failed attempt at the country’s top position, has said he will respect the decision of the Supreme Court even if it rules against him.