NAIROBI – Kenya’s losing presidential candidate Raila Odinga has filed a Supreme Court challenge to last week’s election result, asserting that the process was marked by criminal subversion and seeking that the outcome be nullified and a new vote be ordered.
Odinga arrived to cheers Monday and helped to hoist boxes of material for the petition into place, starting the 14-day period in which the court must rule. At least two other petitions were filed by human rights figures.
Deputy President William Ruto was declared the winner of the close Aug. 9 election with almost 50.5% of votes. The peaceful election turned chaotic in the final minutes before the declaration when the electoral commission split and a majority of commissioners said they couldn’t support the result.
The dissenting commissioners and the chairman have traded accusations of misconduct, extending the uncertainty in East Africa’s most stable democracy. Until then, the election had been seen as the country's most transparent, with the commission posting more than 46,000 results forms online from polling stations for anyone to do the math themselves.
The petition filed by Odinga's team, seen by The Associated Press, names the electoral commission, its members and Ruto himself. It asserts “premeditated unlawful and criminal subversion of the integrity and constitutionality of the electoral process in order to assist and secure a fraudulent result.”
The petition singles out commission chairman Wafula Chebukati, who declared Ruto the winner, asserting that he “set out to subvert the sovereign will of the people of Kenya and overthrow the constitutional order" by declaring results that had not been completely tallied and verified. Twenty-seven constituencies allegedly left out would have affected the outcome, the petition says.
The petition also alleges manipulation of some results forms and computer data and asserts that the actions made the difference in the close election in which Odinga received almost 49% of votes.
A lawyer working with Odinga, James Orengo, told journalists he has worked on several such petitions and “this one, I can assure you, is a bombshell" in its allegations of criminal conduct against the commission chair.
Odinga in brief comments after the filing alleged the existence of vague “corruption cartels” that he believes “are killing our hard-won democracy” and seeking to return Kenya to a one-party state. Odinga is famous for his years-long detention while fighting the one-party state in the 1980s under former President Daniel Arap Moi — the young Ruto's mentor.
This is the 77-year-old Odinga's fifth and likely final try at the presidency. His court challenge to the 2017 election — also overseen by Chebukati — led to the court overturning the result over irregularities, a first in Africa. He boycotted the new election, but his challenge led to reforms this time around.
President Uhuru Kenyatta backed former rival and longtime opposition leader Odinga against his own deputy, Ruto, with whom he bitterly fell out years ago. He still hasn't spoken publicly since he cast his vote. Kenyatta spokeswoman Kanze Dena didn’t reply when asked when he might make a statement.