The political temperature rose sharply in Kenya on Thursday after one of the two camps competing for the presidency alleged the race had been rigged and that the laborious counting of votes should start again from zero. Hopes for a punctual outcome from Monday’s poll were dashed as arguments about the reasons for the failure of costly electronic voting intensified. Partial results from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission slowed to a trickle again on Thursday, with votes from little more than a third of the 291 constituencies tallied by nightfall. Even those results are almost certain to face legal challenges, prolonging the tension in Kenya. East Africa’s biggest and most hi-tech economy is barely moving and the country is stuck in a dangerous ethnic gridlock after most voters opted for their tribal choices. Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, was still in the lead on Thursday but the electoral commission’s numbers were bluntly rejected by the coalition backing former prime minister Raila Odinga. “We have evidence that the results we have received have been doctored,” Mr Odinga’s running mate, outgoing Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, said.
“Because of these concerns, we as a coalition take the position that the national vote tallying process lacks integrity and has to be stopped and restarted using primary documents from the polling stations,” said Mr Musyoka.
His call dramatically raised the stakes and stoked fears that Kenya was very far from being out of the woods. Disputes over the last elections, in 2007, caused about 1,300 killings, mostly on ethnic lines, and mass displacements.
Mr Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, and his running mate, William Ruto, of the Kalenjin ethnic group, are accused by the International Criminal Court of committing crimes against humanity in the events of 2007-08. They say they will defend themselves in The Hague, even if they are simultaneously running one of Africa’s most important countries.
The trial was due to open next month but has been postponed by several months. If neither Mr Kenyatta nor Mr Odinga collect more than 50 % in the first poll, a run-off will be held next month.
But that prospect was looking remote yesterday with the entire nation focused on the first hurdle to be overcome — announcing results from the first round without triggering mayhem.