Authorities are pleading for calm as the final votes are counted in Kenya’s hotly-contested presidential election. The vote has pitted 73-year-old former Prime Minister Raila Odinga against his bitter rival and sitting President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The interim results point to a strong lead for Kenyatta, who led in polls for most of the campaign only to see Odinga close the gap considerably toward the end. However, in a move that echoes disputed presidential elections of the past, Odinga has alleged that voter fraud took place and that the interim results have been altered following a cybersecurity breach at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Electoral Commission chairman Wafula Chebuktai has admitted that a hacking attempt actually did take place, but he maintains that it was foiled and no results were altered.
Allegations of vote tampering are being taken more seriously following mysterious death of Chris Msando, a senior IT manager at the election commission who was found dead by the police on July 31. Mr. Msando had been tortured and murdered, and Raila Odinga asserts that his log-in information was used in the hacking attempt.
Any uncertainty in the vote count risks serious instability in Kenya. In a similar situation following the 2007 elections, over 1,200 people died in months of protests and ethnic violence. It remains to be seen whether history will repeat itself in 2017.
A history of disputed elections and political violence. The present stand-off carries a heavy sense of déjà vu for Kenyan voters, particularly with regards to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Odinga has been involved in two contested presidential elections in the past, in 2007 and 2013. In both cases, Odinga refused to accept the results of the poll. In 2007, he accused the election commission of vote rigging and launched a protest movement that would last months and lead to over 1,200 deaths and 800,000 displacements due to political and ethnic violence. In 2013, he alleged that faults in the voting machinery handed the election to his rival Uhuru Kenyatta, and took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him.