Kenya opposition leader urges boycott on eve of repeat vote
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP):
The leader of Kenya's main opposition party urged his supporters to boycott a rerun of the disputed presidential election scheduled for today amid rising political tensions and fears of violence in East Africa's economic power.
Jubilant supporters of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who seeks a second term, celebrated the news that the election would proceed after a last-minute petition to the Supreme Court seeking to postpone the vote couldn't go forward. Kenyatta said that security forces would be deployed nationwide to ensure order, and he urged Kenyans to vote while respecting the rights of those who don't.
His rival, opposition leader Raila Odinga, called on his political coalition to become a "resistance movement," accusing the president of moving a country known for relative stability and openness towards authoritarian rule.
"Do not participate," Odinga told a rally of thousands in Nairobi's Uhuru Park on the eve of the vote. The gathering was mostly peaceful, though police fired tear gas to disperse some groups of opposition supporters who occupied roads after the demonstration ended.
Protesters also set fires and blocked roads in parts of Nairobi's Kibera slum, and police and demonstrators clashed throughout the day in some neighbourhoods in Kisumu, Kenya's third-largest city and an opposition stronghold.
The United States urged Kenyans to remain calm today and reject violence, saying it was deeply concerned about the efforts of "both parties to interfere with and undermine the independent operation of the electoral commission, the judiciary, and other essential institutions".
Kenya's Supreme Court failed yesterday to muster enough judges to hear the last-minute petition that sought to postpone the vote, a repeat of the August election won by Kenyatta but annulled last month by the court due to what it called irregularities and illegalities.