from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – THIS is set to be the longest weekend in Kenyan politics as the electoral commission races against time to beat Tuesday’s deadline to announce the new president.
For millions in the East African country, it will be a nail-biting wait as tiny margins separate the two frontrunners for the presidential position.
Anxiety after Tuesday’s poll spilled into on a dramatic Friday.
Deputy president, William Ruto, approached the courts to challenge petitions blocking his swearing-in in the event that he emerges winner. There was fracas by the rival parties at the National Tallying Centre (NTS).
A Member of Parliament –elect handed himself over to police for the alleged murder of a rival.
There were alleged attempts to hack the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC’S) systems.
Police also had their hands full amid the rising threat of gender-based violence during the post-election period.
Meanwhile, for the outgoing administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta, it is all systems go as it prepares to hand over to the next government, to be led by Ruto or longtime opposition leader, Raila Odinga.
That is as far as preliminary results are concerned.
Earlier in the day, Ruto and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua approached the Supreme Court to block an application by 11 petitioners that argue the duo’s swearing would violate the constitution.
The petitioners cite impropriety allegations previously labeled against the duo as the basis of their application.
Elius Mutuma, lawyer of the two leaders of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and spearhead the Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First), dismissed the petition.
“The suit herein is incompetent and incurably defective both in form and in substance and is therefore untenable,” according to the court papers.
There were some scuffles at the NTC.
There was a standoff at the NTC, also called the Bomas, after a mysterious electronic device was spotted.
The heated arguments between the UDA and Azimio La Umoja agents over the device stalled the verification exercise for some minutes.
Azimio is the coalition led by Odinga. Agents claimed the device was a ploy by the UDA to rig the process.
The intervention of the IEBC restored order but strains were palpable.
Another standoff ensued in the afternoon as Azimio politicians claim their UDA rivals were breaching IEBC rules at the Bomas.
There was another twist to the proceedings after it emerged hackers had attempted to breach the IEBC systems.
Kenya, by virtue of being a leading digital economy in the continent, is among the most targeted by cyber crooks.
Marjan Hussein Marjan, Chief Executive Officer at IEBC, dispelled reports the hackers had succeeded.
“We assure the country nothing like that has happened,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Kimilili Member of Parliament-elect for Kimilili, Didmus Barasa, presented himself to the police in Bungoma for the murder of Brian Olunga, an aide of Barasa’s rival, Bryan Khaemba.
He allegedly shot dead the security man after an altercation on Election Day last Tuesday.
In the western constituency of Teso North, regional police commander, David Muange, intervened to save a woman manhandled by unruly youth near a polling station.
Earlier this week, the Women’s Elections Situation Room said it had documented violence against women in at least 200 polling stations.
“The police service condemns such acts of violence and gender-based violence against women in politics,” the Kenya Police Service stated.
“We will always be on guard in the fight against gender based violence especially in this season of elective politics,” it added.
“Our officers are always on patrols to ensure neighborhoods are safe and secure, and are available to provide assistance to members of the public when in need.”
Unofficial updates depicted the lead changing hands between Ruto and Odinga, in the region of 50 percent, but media had shelved counting of presidential election results.
The process had been shrouded in controversy as different outlets carried different tallies.
This added to the anxiety emanating from social media posts providing fake news and results.
Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna, the government spokesperson, warned stakeholders and the public against comprising peace.
“We encourage every individual to ensure that their actions and behaviour are directed towards preserving and consolidating our hard-earned peace, stability and national unity,” he stated.
Kenya has a history of violence post-polls, including the 2007 edition that Odinga lost to Mwai Kibaki (now late). Courts annulled the 2017 poll after vote rigging.
International observers endorsed the latest elections as free and fair.
On Friday, the Assumption of Office of the President committee on Friday, met and expressed readiness to facilitate the transition of power to the fifth president and his administration.
Joseph Kinyua, Head of Public Service, chaired the meeting at Harambee House.
“Substantively, the mandate of the committee will be triggered once the IEBC formally announces the results of the August 9, 2022 Presidential Election and declares a President-Elect,” Kinyua said.
– CAJ News