Death toll from Kenya landslides rises to 56 as heavy rains lash country’s north west

People walk in the mud after heavy rains caused landslides in the village of Parua, West Pokot County, Kenya November 23, 2019. REUTERS/Moses Lokeris

 

MOMBASA (Reuters) – The death toll from landslides in northwestern Kenya triggered on Saturday by unusually heavy rains has risen to at least 56 people, a local official said.

The downpour began on Friday in West Pokot County, which borders Uganda, and worsened overnight, causing flooding and mudslides that swept away four bridges and left villages inaccessible by road.

Samuel Poghisio, a senator from the county, told Reuters by phone on Sunday that 56 people were confirmed dead and an unknown number were missing. By Saturday afternoon, local officials had reported 36 dead.

“Rescue operations are frustrated by more rain and fog,” Poghisio wrote in a text message, adding that police helicopters were struggling to reach the flooded areas.

Kenya’s president on Saturday deployed rescue personnel from agencies including the army and the police to try and prevent the “further loss of lives”.

Houses are seen covered by mud after heavy rains caused landslides in the village of Parua, West Pokot County, Kenya November 23, 2019. REUTERS/Moses Lokeris

Researchers have warned that warming oceans are causing unpredictable weather patterns in East Africa.

Heavy rains and floods have killed more than 50 people and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in the region since October, aid groups said earlier this month.

Kenya is experiencing a heavier than usual rainy season, the Kenya Meteorological Department said in early November.

(Reporting by Joseph Akwiri; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

Kenyan rose-farm dam bursts, ‘sea of water’ kills 47

An aerial view of rescue efforts near destroyed houses by flooding water after a dam burst, in Solio town near Nakuru, Kenya May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

By Thomas Mukoya

SOLAI, Kenya (Reuters) – A dam on a commercial flower farm in Kenya’s Rift Valley burst after weeks of torrential rain, unleashing a “sea of water” that careered down a hillside and smashed into two villages, killing at least 47 people.

The walls of the reservoir, on top of a hill in Nakuru county, 190 km (120 miles) northwest of Nairobi, gave way late on Wednesday as nearby residents were sitting down to evening meals.

Kenya is one of the largest suppliers of cut flowers to Europe, and roses from the 3,500-acre Solai farm are exported to the Netherlands and Germany, according to Optimal Connection, its Netherlands-based handling agent.

The floodwaters carved out a dark brown chasm in the hillside and swept away everything in their path – powerlines, homes and buildings, including a primary school.

The bodies of two women were found several kilometers away as excavators and rescue workers armed with shovels picked through rubble and mud searching for survivors and victims.

Local police chief Japheth Kioko said the death toll could climb. “So far it is 47 dead. We are still on the ground,” he told Reuters.

After a severe drought last year, East Africa has been hit by two months of heavy rain, affecting nearly a million people in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Uganda. Bridges have been swept away and roads turned into rivers of mud.

In Solai, Veronica Wanjiku Ngigi, 67, said she was at home brewing tea with her son at around 8 pm (1700 GMT) when his wife rushed in to say the dam had burst and they needed to get to higher ground immediately.

“It was a sea of water. My neighbor was killed when the water smashed through the wall of his house. He was blind so he could not run. They found his body in the morning,” she said. “My other neighbors also died. All our houses have been ruined.”

BOULDERS, ROOTS

Nakuru lies in the heart of Kenya’s fertile Rift Valley, home to thousands of commercial farms that grow everything from French beans to macadamia nuts to cut flowers, nearly all of which are exported to Europe.

The region is dotted with irrigation reservoirs built in the last two decades to meet the demands of the rapidly expanding agricultural sector, the biggest foreign exchange earner for East Africa’s largest economy and a major source of jobs.

Vinoj Kumar, general manager of the Solai farm, blamed the disaster on massive rainfall in a forest above the dam.

“In the past two days the intensity of the rain was high and the water started coming down carrying boulders and roots which damaged the wall,” he told Reuters. “The dam wall cracked and the water escaped.”

Nakuru governor Lee Kinyanjui said 450 homes had been hit by the floodwaters and safety engineers had been sent to inspect three other dams to check for cracks or breaches.

Wanjiku, the survivor, said at least one looked like it was ready to burst. “There is another dam which is also overflowing which is looking risky,” she said. “We are scared.”

One primary school had been closed as a precaution, education officials said. Arriving at the scene, Interior Minister Fred Matiangi pledged central government assistance to those affected.

To date, heavy rains have caused havoc in Kenya, killing 158 people and displacing 299,859, according to the government and Kenya Red Cross. Roads and bridges have been destroyed, causing millions of dollars of damage.

The United Nations UNOCHA disaster agency said 580,000 people had been affected by torrential rain and flooding in neighboring Somalia, while the Somali region of eastern Ethiopia had also taken a hammering, with 160,000 people affected.

The flooding could yet get worse, with heavy rains forecast to continue in the Rift Valley and the Lake Victoria basin over the next few weeks.

(Reporting by Thomas Mukoya, George Obulutsa, Duncan Miriri, Humphrey Malalo and Maggie Fick; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

In Kenya election re-run, polling incomplete and next steps uncertain

Anti riot police are deployed to disperse rioters in Kawangware slums in Nairobi, Kenya October 27, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

By Maggie Fick

KISUMU, Kenya (Reuters) – Kenyans who boycotted a repeat presidential election voiced relief on Saturday after authorities indefinitely delayed further attempts to hold the vote in some opposition areas due to the risk of violence.

But while the election board’s decision stemmed the prospect of more clashes, it also pushed to the fore a new question: can President Uhuru Kenyatta be declared winner of a vote in which ballots were not cast in more than 20 of Kenya’s 290 constituencies?

Two days after polling in the rest of the country, voting had been due to take place in four counties where residents blocked roads and clashed with police as part of an opposition boycott. The board ditched the plan late on Friday.

“I’m happy because we need peace, we are tired of being brutally killed by the police,” said Henry Kahango, a father of three, in the western city of Kisumu.

Police officials have said repeatedly that their response to the political unrest is proportionate.

Kenyatta has won more than 97 percent of votes counted so far, according to a local media tally. But with turnout estimated below 35 percent and the country deeply divided, his hopes for a decisive mandate to lead east Africa’s richest economy have been quashed. [nL8N1N23QS]

Opposition leader Raila Odinga pulled out of the contest, a rerun called after August’s election was annulled by the Supreme Court over procedural irregularities. He said the contest against Kenyatta was not going to be fair.

Odinga won 44.7 percent of the vote then, on a turnout of nearly 80 percent. In Thursday’s vote, Kenyatta faced six minor candidates, none of whom won more than 1 percent in August.

Deputy president William Ruto, Kenyatta’s running mate sought on Saturday to declare victory and discount the opposition: “Evidently it doesn’t matter how powerful/popular one or their party imagines to be, the repeat elections confirm the PEOPLE ARE SUPREME,” he tweeted.

LEGAL CHALLENGE

The first legal challenge came less than 24 hours after Thursday’s vote, when an activist filed a case seeking to nullify the election, which the opposition rejected as a “sham”.

Neither of the two main parties, nor the election board had any appearances scheduled on Saturday, leaving the country waiting for the next step as the votes are counted.

If the expected legal challenges fail to clear a path out of the crisis, including a possible order for another rerun, the result will be the continuation of a protracted and economically damaging stalemate between the Kenyatta and Odinga camps.

The electoral saga is polarizing the nation and slowing growth in what has been one of Africa’s most vibrant economies, as well as a regional trade hub and a powerful security ally for Western nations. A decade ago, 1,200 Kenyans were killed in violence after a disputed poll.

In Odinga strongholds, such as Kisumu, residents had defiantly blocked roads, clashed with police, and intimidated election officials to prevent voting on Thursday.

They accused authorities of trying to “force” participation.

“This is pure oppression,” said Hassan Hussein, a Muslim community leader. “The law says if you want to vote, you vote, if not, you don’t.”

In a statement on Saturday, the IEBC election board condemned what it said was harassment by a member of parliament on “an IEBC official performing his duties” after a video went viral on social media, further stirring anger online.

The MP, Alice Wahome, who is a member of the ruling Jubilee party’s coalition, told Kenya’s Standard newspaper the returning officer had refused to sign off the necessary paperwork and was seeking to leave, having “snatched the forms from other agents”.

Anger at police is flaring in opposition areas in western counties, Nairobi slums and the coastal city of Mombasa.

“People from this region are feeling isolated from the rest of the country,” said Eric Chitayi, a security guard in Kisumu. “We are feeling disconnected.”

Pastor Fred Olando from Kisumu, describing how water cannon trucks and anti-riot police had been patrolling day and night in his neighborhood: “We fear this government and these police.”

Violence has killed at least five people since Thursday’s vote. People died from gunshot wounds and beatings by police, according to hospital staff.

In the aftermath of the August election, at least 45 people died during a police crackdown on opposition supporters, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

On Friday evening in the Nairobi slum of Kawangware, a Reuters witness saw nearly 100 youths armed with machetes in red T-shirts – the color of the ruling party – as a group of opposition supporters clashed with police.

In the western town of Migori, another scene of clashes, a local journalist said police assaulted him on Saturday morning. “They removed me from my home, I produced my press card, and they slapped me and beat me with a baton,” said Caleb Kingwara, a photographer for Kenya’s Standard newspaper.

The European Union said in a statement: “It is imperative that the security forces provide protection to all citizens and avoid the excessive use of force.”

Map of election-related deaths immediately following the Aug. 8 polls: http://tmsnrt.rs/2lajbuV

A timeline of political events: http://tmsnrt.rs/2lblWfn

Chart of results showing official results from last three elections: http://tmsnrt.rs/2hVLgV3

Interactive election graphic: http://tmsnrt.rs/2fbG3Yg

(Reporting by Maggie Fick; Additional reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Editing by Alison Williams)

Shooting, tear gas, bonfires mar Kenya election re-run

Shooting, tear gas, bonfires mar Kenya election re-run

By Maggie Fick

KISUMU, Kenya (Reuters) – Kenyan opposition supporters clashed with police and threw up burning barricades on Thursday, seeking to derail an election rerun likely to return Uhuru Kenyatta as president of East Africa’s chief economic and political powerhouse.

In the western city of Kisumu, stone-throwing youths heeding opposition leader Raila Odinga’s call for a voter boycott were met by live rounds, tear gas and water cannon. Gunfire killed one protester and wounded three others, a nurse said. Reuters found no polling stations open there.

Riot police fired tear gas in Kibera and Mathare, two volatile Nairobi slums. Protesters set fires in Kibera early in the morning and in Mathara a church was firebombed and a voter attacked.

Around 50 people have been killed, mostly by security forces, since the original Aug. 8 vote. The Supreme Court annulled Kenyatta’s win in that poll on procedural grounds and ordered fresh elections within 60 days, but Odinga called for a boycott amid concerns the poll would not be free and fair.

The repeat election is being closely watched across East Africa, which relies on Kenya as a trade and logistics hub, and in the West, which considers Nairobi a bulwark against Islamist militancy in Somalia and civil conflict in South Sudan and Burundi.

While tensions simmered in opposition strongholds, other areas were calm. In the capital, polling stations saw a sprinkling of voters instead of the hours-long queues that waited in August.

Interior minister Fred Matiang’i told Citizen TV that polling stations opened in 90 percent of the country, including Kiambu, where Kenyatta cast his ballot.

“We are requesting them (voters) humbly that they should turn out in large numbers,” Kenyatta, the U.S.-educated son of Kenya’s founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, said after voting. “We’re tired as a country of electioneering and I think it’s time to move forward.”

A decade after 1,200 people were killed over another disputed election, many Kenyans feared violence could spread.

If some counties fail to hold elections, it could trigger legal challenges to the election, stirring longer-term instability and ethnic divisions.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court was due to hear a case seeking to delay the polls. But it was unable to sit after five out of the seven judges failed to show up, fuelling suspicions among opposition supporters.

“The lack of a quorum is highly unusual for a Supreme Court hearing,” a statement from the European Union said. “Not hearing this case has de facto cut off the legal path for remedy.”

In a statement issued by the U.S. embassy, foreign missions said the vote had damaged regional stability and urged “open and transparent dialogue involving all Kenyans to resolve the deep divisions that the electoral process has exacerbated.”

OPPOSITION STRONGHOLDS

In Kisumu, the scene of major ethnic violence after a disputed election in 2007, many schools designated as polling stations were padlocked. Young men milled about outside.

In Kisumu Central, constituency returning officer John Ngutai said no voting materials had been distributed and only three of his 400 staff had turned up. One nervous official said his election work was a “suicide mission”.

Kisumu businessman Joshua Nyamori, 42, was one of the few voters brave enough to defy Odinga’s stay-away call but could not cast his ballot.

“Residents fear reprisal from political gangs organized by politicians. This is wrong,” he said.

In the coastal city of Mombasa, protesters lit tyres and timber along the main highway. Some polling stations had not opened by 8am, and those that did had low turnout and four armed police on guard – double the number on duty last time.

“We are not staying home. We are protesting and ensuring there is no voting around this area,” said Babangida Tumbo, 31.

CALL FOR PRAYERS

On the eve of the vote Odinga, backed off previous calls for protests and urged supporters to stay home.

“We advise Kenyans who value democracy and justice to hold vigils and prayers away from polling stations, or just stay at home,” he said in English.

But speakers who preceded him urged in the KiSwahili language that supporters should ensure the vote did not take place.

Odinga’s National Super Alliance coalition, whose supporters attacked polling staff in the run-up to the vote, could argue in court that the lack of open polling stations shows that the re-run is bogus. The Supreme Court said it would annul this election too if it did not meet legal standards.

The head of the election commission said last week he could not guarantee a free and fair vote, citing political interference and threats of violence against his colleagues. One election commissioner quit and fled the country.

Kenya’s Election Observation Group, a coalition of civil society organizations, said an observer in Mombasa had been beaten up and one in Kibera prevented from leaving the house.

They did not send observers to western Kenya over security fears, they said, but in other places 80 percent of the 766 polling stations they were observing opened on time.

(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld, Duncan Miriri, David Lewis and John Ndiso in Nairobi and Joseph Akwiri in Mombasa; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

Kenya crisis deepens as judges’ absence means vote goes ahead

Kenya crisis deepens as judges' absence means vote goes ahead

By George Obulutsa and Katharine Houreld

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya plunged deeper into crisis on Wednesday after a no-show by the majority of Supreme Court judges scuppered an eleventh-hour petition to delay a presidential election and the governor of a volatile opposition region endorsed rebellion against the state.

Within minutes of Supreme Court chief justice David Maraga announcing that five judges had failed to turn up, preventing a quorum, hundreds of supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga took to the streets of Kisumu, his main stronghold.

Riot police used teargas to disperse them.

Odinga had successfully challenged the outcome of an initial ballot in August, which he lost, in the same court.

“We were expecting Maraga to cancel (Thursday’s) elections. This means the push for postponement of the election is on,” said George Mbija, a motorcycle taxi driver in the western city, repeating an Odinga demand for a clear-out of election board officials.

“As we wait for Raila to give us the direction, the status quo remains – No reforms, No election.”

The opposition leader has called on loyalists to boycott Thursday’s vote, because he said the election board’s failure to institute reforms means it will be neither free nor fair.

Kisumu governor Anyang Nyong’o, a hardline Odinga supporter, went a step further.

“If the government subverts the sovereign will of the people … then people are entitled to rebel against this government,” Nyong’o told reporters in Kisumu.

Such comments seem certain to fuel fears of a major confrontation with security forces, already blamed for killing nearly 50 people in Kisumu and Nairobi slums after the canceled August vote.

For many in East Africa’s economic powerhouse, the instability will also rekindle memories of large-scale ethnic violence that killed 1,200 people following a disputed election in 2007.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who won the annulled election by 1.4 million votes, has made clear he wants the re-run to go ahead and with the Supreme Court – the only institution that can delay it – unable to meet, it appears he will get his way.

“God is great! The evil schemes to deny Kenyans the right to vote kesho (tomorrow) have failed. WE WILL DECIDE and move our country forward tomorrow,” Deputy President William Ruto said in a tweet.

In his announcement on live television, Maraga said one judge was unwell, another was abroad and another was unable to attend after her bodyguard was shot and injured on Tuesday night. It was unclear why the other two were absent.

Election board lawyer Paul Muite said Maraga’s statement meant the election would proceed as planned.

“It means elections are on tomorrow. There is no order stopping the election,” he told the Citizen TV station.

In the capital of Nairobi, hundreds of opposition supporters began to converge on Uhuru Park, waiting for Odinga to give a speech in which he promised to outline his strategy for election day.

“RECIPE FOR CHAOS”

If the election goes ahead, it is likely to deepen the ethnic and political divides that have frequently sparked violence in Kenya, a key Western ally in a turbulent region.

In a related ruling, High Court Judge George Odunga said some local election officials had been appointed in an irregular manner, but to withdraw at the last minute would only make an already dire situation worse.

“For the elections to proceed in the absence of the said officers would in my view constitutional crisis of unimaginable magnitude. Simply put, it would be a recipe for chaos.”

However, he admitted that not dismissing them could form the grounds for legal challenges afterwards. The Supreme Court has said it is prepared to annul the re-run, and send the country of 45 million back to square one, if it does not pass muster.

Opposition lawyers seeking to challenge the Oct. 26 polls could also cite the failure of the election board to hold elections in all parts of the country, if enough polling stations are unable to open.

In Kisumu, returning officer John Ngutai said that attacks by opposition supporters last week meant the election board had only managed to train 250 out of 1,300 staff they needed to hold the election in his constituency.

“Our trainings were disrupted and officials attacked, so some people withdrew,” he said.

Both the European Union and the Carter Center, an election-monitoring group run by former President Jimmy Carter, have said they will reduce their monitoring missions amid rising tensions between the Kenyatta and Odinga camps.

Foreign observers were heavily criticized by the opposition in August for focusing on the vote, rather than the tallying process led by the IEBC election board.

“The current political impasse constrains the IEBC’s ability to conduct a credible election,” the Carter Center said. “There is a serious risk of election-related violence should the elections go forward.”

(Additional reporting by Maggie Fick, David Lewis and John Ndiso; Writing by Ed Cropley; editing by Richard Balmforth)

Kenya vote in balance as crisis deepens after Odinga quits

A supporter of Kenyan opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, carries a banner depicting Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga during a protest along a street in Nairobi, Kenya, October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

By Katharine Houreld and Duncan Miriri

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya lurched deeper into political crisis on Wednesday as a court ruling and a parliamentary vote appeared to ease Uhuru Kenyatta’s path to a second term as president, a day after his rival quit an election they were to contest.

Kenyatta and Raila Odinga were due to face off in a repeat election on Oct. 26, after the Supreme Court annulled their August ballot — in which the president was declared the winner — due to irregularities. [nL8N1LI1QY]

But Odinga pulled out of the re-run on Tuesday, fuelling doubts about whether it would be contested at all. Wednesday’s interventions by the judiciary and legislature added to the uncertainty.

As police used teargas to disperse opposition protesters demanding electoral reform, the High Court approved a petition by Ekuru Aukot, who polled less than 1 percent in the August vote, to contest the second ballot.

Aukot has yet to announce if he will definitely run.

Further muddying the political waters, parliament passed an election law amendment stating that if one candidate withdrew from the re-run election, the remaining one would automatically win. The vote was boycotted by opposition lawmakers.

That would mean Kenyatta could be declared president if he faced no challengers. [nL8N1MM0U5]

The events stoked confusion among voters and fears that politically-driven violence might escalate. Months of political uncertainty have already blunted growth in East Africa’s richest nation, a long-time ally of the West.

“There’s a real atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty. There seems to be dozens of opinions of what should come next,” said Murithi Mutiga, a senior Horn of Africa analyst for the global thinktank International Crisis Group.

UNEASE

Justifying his pullout on Tuesday, Odinga said the election would not be free and fair and renewed calls for the electoral board (IEBC), which he blamed for the procedural irregularities identified in the first ballot, to be replaced. [nL8N1ML3OC]

Opposition supporters on Wednesday renewed their protests for electoral reform.

Demonstrators lit bonfires in Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold in the country’s west, while more than a thousand supporters marched through the central business district in the capital Nairobi. Police used teargas to disperse them in both cities, witnesses said.

A repeat of the widespread ethnic clashes that killed 1,200 people following a disputed presidential poll in 2007 appears unlikely at this stage.

But at least 37 people were killed in protests immediately following the August vote, almost all of them by police, a Kenyan rights group said Monday. [nL8N1MK1YD]

“We want a reformed IEBC,” said Elisha Odhiambo, an opposition legislator, referring to the electoral board, which has frequently relied on riot police dispersing protests outside its offices in recent weeks.

After the High Court ruling in his favour, Aukot told reporters that he still had concerns about the board and would issue a statement in a day or two giving clarity about his plans.

It was unclear if other candidates from the first ballot with little support would also seek to be included, but the election board said it still had time to print ballot papers.

The Sept. 1 Supreme Court judgement that nullified Kenyatta’s 1.4 million vote win also stipulated elections had to be held within 60 days.

If that schedule is not met, the constitution provides for the speaker of parliament, a member of Kenyatta’s party, to take power.

With two weeks to go until the elections, it is still unclear who will stand.

“I would expect one of the parties will try to seek an authoritative announcement from the Supreme Court,” International Crisis Group’s Mutiga said.

Amid the political uncertainty, the government has trimmed this year’s GDP growth forecast from 5.9 percent to 5.5 percent last month.

The country’s equity markets slid further on Wednesday. Kenya’s all share index slipped 1.24 percent while the blue chip index fell 1.14 percent.

(Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo and George Obulutsa; editing by John Stonestreet)

Kenyan police disperse protests against election commission

A supporter of the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition runs after riot policemen dispersed protesters during a demonstration calling for the removal of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials in Nairobi, Kenya September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

By George Obulutsa and Humphrey Malalo

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan police used tear gas and batons on Tuesday to disperse protesters who say election officials should be sacked before the re-run of a presidential vote because they favor President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Several volleys of tear gas were fired near the election commission headquarters in central Nairobi, a Reuters witness said. When protestors regrouped, officers fired more tear gas and beat some with batons. By mid-afternoon calm had returned.

Raila Odinga, who lost his presidential bid on Aug. 8, will get another chance after the Supreme Court annulled the election citing irregularities and ordered a fresh vote within 60 days.

However, Odinga has accused the election commission, known as the IEBC, of being a puppet of Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee party and said he will not participate in the Oct. 26 re-run if election officials are not sacked and prosecuted.

The court did not find any individual responsible but said institutional failings had led to irregularities and illegalities in the transmission of election results.

The election commission has asked the opposition to call off protests until the IEBC has explained the various measures being taken to “enhance the credibility and integrity” of the vote.

“IEBC cannot begin the process of an honest election as long as those responsible for the irregularities and illegalities are still lurking in its corridors,” Odinga told reporters.

“IEBC has refused to dismiss or suspend them. That is why we are today beginning these peaceful campaigns to force them out by public pressure so the process of a fair election can at last begin,” he added.

Last week Kenya’s chief prosecutor ordered investigations into 11 election board officials including its chief executive, Ezra Chiloba, as well as a lawyer and campaigner who worked for Odinga.

Speaking as protestors gathered outside his office, Chiloba said he would not resign. “I have (a) responsibility before me and I have to discharge that responsibility,” he told Kenya’s KTN television network.

Some Kenyatta supporters also took to the streets in Nairobi but there were no clashes between the two sides.

In the port city of Mombasa, a crowd gathered at local election office, chanting: “No reforms no elections. Chiloba must go!”

The Kenyan government in a statement accused “mobs of hooligans” of taking advantage of the protests to destroy property and said “a number of criminals” had been arrested and would be taken to court.

CHARGE OF SUBVERSION

Underscoring the rising tensions, a newly elected opposition lawmaker was charged with subversion at a court hearing in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Paul Ongili Owino was arrested after a video clip of him speaking while campaigning for Odinga emerged on social media in which he called Kenyatta a son of a dog.

The prosecution said those words were “calculated to excite disaffection against the presidency”.

Ahead of Tuesday’s demonstrations by the opposition National Super Alliance coalition, Kenyatta had said violence would not be tolerated.

“People are free to demonstrate but they must ensure that they do not destroy other people’s property,” he said.

“Let them not think that they will break into other people’s shops and interfere with the daily routine of other Kenyans. That, we shall not allow,” he said.

In the western city of Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold where some 3,000 protestors gathered, one protestor, vegetable market vendor Hellen Aketch said: “I will support anything that assures me of the validity and the safety of my vote in the upcoming elections.”

“I have closed (my) business today and I am ready to do it again so long as some sanity is realized among those who hold public office.”

(Additional reporting by Joseph Akwiri in Mombasa, Kenya; Writing by David Lewis and George Obulutsa; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

Kenyan police fire teargas at Supreme Court protesters

Kenyan police fire teargas at Supreme Court protesters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan police fired teargas on Tuesday at supporters of President Uhuru Kenyatta who were protesting outside the Supreme Court against the invalidation of his Aug. 8 re-election, Reuters witnesses said.

The Supreme Court nullified the presidential election on Sept. 1 and ordered the electoral body to hold a repeat vote within 60 days. The court, which issued a majority judgment, said there were irregularities in tallying results of the poll.

David Maraga, the chief justice and president of the Supreme Court, said threats against judicial staff had risen since the ruling.

“Since the Supreme Court delivered judgment … these threats have become more aggressive,” Maraga told a news conference at the Supreme Court, as hundreds of protesters wearing the bright red of Kenyatta’s Jubilee party gathered outside.

He cited the demonstrations outside the court as an example of the rising threats, and threatening messages sent on social media to individual judges and their staff.

“Senior political leaders have also threatened the Judiciary, promising ‘to cut it down to size’ and ‘teach us a lesson’,” Maraga said, vowing that the judiciary would not be intimidated by anyone.

They protesters waved placards and shouted slogans against the judiciary and Maraga himself.

“I have attended this protest to air my grievances after the Supreme Court annulled my candidate’s victory,” one of the protesters told Reuters.

There was a commotion after the teargas was fired, before the protesters regrouped and continued with their protest outside the court building.

The Supreme Court, which gave a summary of its findings when it invalidated Kenyatta’s election victory, said it would read its detailed ruling on Wednesday at 0700 GMT.

(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo and George Obulutsa; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Opposition stays away as Kenyatta warns against ‘destructive division’

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta walks to inspect the honour guard before the opening of the 12th Parliament outside the National Assembly Chamber in Nairobi, Kenya September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

By Katharine Houreld

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta opened parliament on Tuesday by warning against divisive and destructive politics, while opposition lawmakers boycotted the legislature and rallied to demand the resignation of election officials.

Kenya held parliamentary, presidential and local elections on Aug. 8, but the Supreme Court nullified the presidential results three weeks later, citing irregularities in the tallying process. New elections are scheduled for Oct. 17.

While calling for unity and respect for the constitution, Kenyatta delivered a thinly veiled warning to the opposition lawmakers who had chosen to stay away from parliament.

“My government will not tolerate anyone intent on disrupting our hard-won peace and stability. Under no circumstances must Kenyans ever allow our free competitive processes to become a threat to the peace and security of our nation,” he said, to foot-stamping and cheering from ruling party legislators.

“We shall continue to encourage vibrant democratic competition, we shall not allow destructive division.”

As he spoke, opposition leaders held a rally in Kibera, the capital’s largest slum, rejecting the Oct. 17 date unless officials on the election board, whom they blame for mishandling the polls, resign.

“Now we are putting it squarely to you that the Supreme Court of this country has found you incompetent,” said Kalonzo Musyoka, running mate of Kenyatta’s presidential rival Raila Odinga.

The surprise election annulment initially raised fears of short-term political turmoil in Kenya, the region’s richest nation and a staunch Western ally in a region roiled by conflict.

But it also raised hopes among frustrated opposition supporters, who believe the last three elections have been stolen from them, that the east African nation’s tarnished courts could deliver them justice.

That hope helped tamp down protests that threatened to spark the kind of violence that followed disputed 2007 elections, when around 1,200 people were killed in ethnic bloodletting.

In a separate development, a ruling party lawmaker and a former opposition senator appeared in a Nairobi court, charged with incitement to violence over speeches they had made in the past week. Both were freed on a 300,000 Kenya shilling ($3,000) bond.

A government body monitoring hate speech says that it has seen a spike since the Supreme Court ruling. More than three times as many incidents were reported in the week following the ruling than during the whole 10-week election campaign, it said.

 

(Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri and Humphrey Malalo; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

 

Kenya’s Odinga rejects vote re-run date without ‘guarantees’, Kenyatta rebuffs demand

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, speaks during a church service inside the St. Stephen's cathedral in Nairobi, Kenya September 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

By John Ndiso

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Tuesday his coalition would not participate in the re-run of a presidential election proposed for Oct. 17 unless it is given “legal and constitutional” guarantees.

Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta responded by saying there was nowhere in law that required the electoral body to consult Odinga.

The opposition also said it is planning to file dozens of challenges to results from races lower down the ticket, including legislative and local seats.

Odinga’s conditions for participating in the repeat presidential election include the removal of six officials at the election board. He wants criminal investigations to be opened against them.

“You cannot do a mistake twice and expect to get different results,” Odinga told reporters. “A number of the officials of the commission should be sent home, some of them should be investigated for the heinous crimes they committed.”

Kenya’s Supreme Court ordered on Friday that the Aug. 8 vote be re-run within 60 days, saying Kenyatta’s victory by 1.4 million votes was undermined by irregularities in the process. Kenyatta was not accused of any wrongdoing.

The ruling, the first time in Africa that a court had overturned the re-election of a sitting president, was hailed by Odinga supporters as “historic”.

Analysts have said it is likely to lead to some short-term volatility in East Africa’s biggest economy, but could build confidence in institutions longer-term.

On Monday, the election board said it would hold new elections on Oct. 17.

But Odinga said he wanted elections held on Oct. 24 or 31 instead.

“There will be no elections on the seventeenth of October until the conditions that we have spelt out in the statement are met,” he said.

Kenyatta rebuffed Odinga’s demands to the commission on the setting of the election date.

“There is no legal requirement that Raila be consulted. I was neither consulted. Kenya doesn’t belong to one man,” he said in a statement sent by his office.

Odinga has lost the last three presidential elections. Each time, he has said the vote was rigged against him.

The opposition also plans to lodge 62 court cases contesting governorship, lawmaker, and local seats, spokeswoman Kathleen Openda told Reuters.

At least 33 court cases were filed contesting election results before the presidential election was annulled, said Andrew Limo, spokesman for the election board. Others had been filed since but he did not have the updated figure.

Limo said the numbers had not yet reached the same level as during the 2013 elections, when the board received challenges to 189 results.

(Writing by David Lewis and Katharine Houreld; Editing by George Obulutsa)