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Kenya's opposition leader in Supreme Court

James Shimanyula
August 28, 2017

Kenya's Raila Odinga won the first round of the election petition after the Supreme Court given him access to the electoral commission’s servers. It's the biggest step for the opposition to prove that votes were rigged.

Kenya: protests against the election results in Nairobi
Image: Getty Images/AFP/T. Karumba

Judges at Kenya's Supreme Court on Monday began hearing an opposition petition challenging the result of the August 8 presidential election. The court allowed lawyers for the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) to have access to the computer servers of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). "The petitioners shall be granted a read-only access which includes copying if necessary information relating to some servers in the exclusive possession of the first responded," Judge Isaac Lenaola said. 

Read more: Election commission dismisses opposition victory claim

The court also ruled that court officials, along with representatives of both parties, will supervise the access to the electoral commission's computer system.  The electoral commission's lawyer, Paul Muite, said the IEBC would comply. "The commission has absolutely nothing to hide," Muite said. 

NASA wants to prove that the August 8 presidential poll results were rigged. They claimed that IEBC did not follow the law in tallying votes and presented fabricated results in favor of incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta. 

Read more: Opinion: Déjà vu after Kenya elections

Kenyatta, the flag bearer for the Jubilee alliance – a coalition of eleven political parties, won the election with 54 percent of the vote. The IEBC said he garnered 1.4 million more votes than his rival, Raila Odinga. But Odinga's opposition coalition said that results from more than one-third of polling stations were flawed. In some cases, Odinga said there were irregularities in the electronic transmission of copies of paper forms giving the results from each polling station. Election observers have criticized the IEBC for being very slow to avail copies of the paper forms online. Thousands of scans of the forms verifying the result were still missing more than a week after the official results were announced.

Some Kenyans reacted on Twitter after the court's decision, urging NASA not to celebrate yet, describing it as a trap.   

Rights group calls for justice

Kenyatta's win for the second term sparked two days of protests in opposition strongholds. The police are accused of suppressing the uprising violently using live bullets and tear gas. At least 24 were killed by police gunfire, according to a local rights group. However, Human Rights Watch, a US based watchdog said this number might be higher as the media in Kenya barely reported on the violence. "The brutal crackdown on protesters and residents in the western counties undermined the national elections," said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at HRW.

The rights group said the opposition supporters in Nairobi, Coast, and the western counties of Kisumu protested with chants "Uhuru must go." Consequently, the police shot at the protesters.  HRW also said security forces carried out house-to-house operations cracking on the protesters.  "People have a right to protest peacefully," Namwaya said, adding that "Kenyan authorities should urgently put a stop to police abuse and hold those responsible to account."