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Kenyan Opposition Leader Vows To Take Election Challenge To Supreme Court

Just over a week after Kenyans went to polls to decide their president, opposition leader Raila Odinga has vowed a legal challenge to the official results that re-elected his rival, incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta. At a news conference Wednesday, Odinga announced that he plans to take allegations of "computer-generated fraud" to the country's Supreme Court.

"This is just the beginning," he said. "We will not accept and move on."

Odinga and his campaign have vehemently disputed the outcome of the election since provisional results began to dribble out to the public last week. By Friday night, when Kenya's electoral commission released official tallies that showed Kenyatta winning by more than 1.4 million votes, Odinga had already made clear he believes those results were doctored by a "logarithm" introduced in the country's electronic voting system.

He has not publicly provided evidence to support his claim or clarified where he obtained alternative tallies showing him leading by several hundred thousand votes.

Still, he kept up his objections in the days that followed, rejecting the assessments of international observers who initially largely approved the election and calling on his supporters to boycott the results. At least 24 people have been killed in the ensuing clashes between his supporters and Kenyan security forces.

But as Odinga declared Wednesday, he remains undeterred.

"No one should believe — and especially not those behind this election fraud — that Kenyans are sheep who will willingly go along with the democracy's slaughter," he told reporters. "This country is now divided between those prepared to live under autocracy and the forces of freedom and democracy."

Despite their initial approval, some international observers have increasingly expressed reservations about how the election has been handled — particularly the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission's delays in releasing results forms. Only today, after international pressure, did the commission release the 34B forms, which show the results found at regional tallying centers; as of this writing, the commission still has not released all of the 34A forms, which show individual polling station results.

"The availability of results forms at all levels enables trust by allowing all stakeholders to have confidence in and insight into the totals announced," the European Union's Election Observation Mission Kenya said in a statement Wednesday. The mission called on "the IEBC to continue to publish all results forms online promptly."

Raila Odinga's supporters in Nairobi gather at an electronics repair shop to watch his Wednesday news conference. Beside the television is a poster for Odinga's political coalition, the National Super Alliance.
Tony Karumba / AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
Raila Odinga's supporters in Nairobi gather at an electronics repair shop to watch his Wednesday news conference. Beside the television is a poster for Odinga's political coalition, the National Super Alliance.

In the meantime, eyebrows were raised when the federal authorities moved Wednesday to suspend two non-governmental organizations that had been critical of the elections process and its aftermath. The Kenya Revenue Authority even attempted to raid one of those groups, the Africa Centre for Open Governance, prompting some popular backlash.

Shortly afterward, Kenyan Interior Minister Fred Matiang'i sent a letter scaling back the federal actions, citing "various concerns and petitions from a number of stakeholders."

Despite "weighty legal non-compliance and regulatory issues on the said organisations, my view is that before conclusive and final action such as deregistration, comprehensive and exhaustive engagement needs to happen," Matiang'i said in the letter seen by NPR.

To that end, he gave the groups 90 days "to meet the regulatory and compliance needs of the NGOs Coordination Board" before incurring suspension.

Added to these concerns was an episode Tuesday night at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, where a high-ranking IEBC official was delayed by security guards from boarding a plane to the U.S. The stop prompted speculation it had something do do with electoral concerns — though Roselyn Akombe, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Kenya, said this speculation was "completely false and unwarranted."

"While it is unfortunate that my departure was delayed," she said in a tweeted statement, "I at no time indicated that I am fleeing my beloved Kenya due to questions raised on the credibility of our electoral process."

Nevertheless, some critics remain unconvinced that there's nothing to all of these recent question marks. The government is acting "like people who have stolen" elections, Maina Kiai, a former U.N. expert on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, told The Associated Press.

As for Odinga, he declared Wednesday that his case will offer the Supreme Court a "second chance." The opposition leader, who lost three presidential campaigns before this one, also took the 2013 election to the high court — only to be defeated in what he called a "travesty of justice."

At the same time, he encouraged his followers to refrain from violence as they resist.

"Wage a peaceful campaign of civil disobedience," he told them. "We shall hold vigils, moments of silence, beat drums and do everything else to peacefully draw attention to the gross election injustices being meted upon our country and demand redress.

"Kenyans have no need to use violence to achieve justice."

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Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.