Nairobi: Kenya nervously awaited Thursday the final results of its presidential election, with the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta holding a strong lead after a vote marred by opposition claims of rigging and the death of four people.
Tensions are high in the east African nation where, a decade ago, post-poll bloodshed left 1,100 people dead.
“We find ourselves at a crossroads once again,” the Daily Nation newspaper warned grimly on Thursday.
“The nation is sitting precariously on the precipice. The dispute over poll results is creating needless anxiety.”
A longtime government adversary making what is likely his last bid for office, Raila Odinga is badly trailing Kenyatta, according to a provisional count of Tuesday’s ballot, released by the electoral commission (IEBC).
Odinga carried 44.8 percent of the vote to Kenyatta’s 54.3 percent with 97 percent of polling stations reporting.
But Odinga charged that hackers broke into the IEBC’s systems and rigged the count — an allegation that fuelled uncertainty in what was already a tight race.
“This is an attack on our democracy. The 2017 general election was a fraud,” said Odinga, alleging detailed evidence of the hackers’ movements.
The claim was denied by IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba, who said on Wednesday that the crucial electronic voting system — seen as key to avoiding fraud — had not been compromised.
“Our election management system is secure. There was no external or internal interference to the system at any point before, during or after the voting,” he told a press conference.
It remained unclear whether final results would be officially published on Thursday. Under Kenya’s electoral law, the definitive results must be published within a week of polling.
On Wednesday, isolated groups of protesters chanting “No Raila, no peace” took to the streets in the western city of Kisumu and the slums of the capital Nairobi.
Clashes with protesters left two people dead in Nairobi’s Mathare slum. The capital’s police chief said officers opened fire after they were attacked by men wielding machetes.
In the southeastern Tana River region, police killed two people after a group of five stormed a vote-tallying centre and stabbed one person.
– Quiet in Kisumu –
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Kisumu’s flashpoint Kondele suburb was quiet on Thursday morning, a day after police fought running battles with stone-throwing protesters.
Black scars on the roads from tyre bonfires set by the protesters were still visible, while groups of men gathered on the sidewalks, watching police trucks patrolling the town.
Odinga claimed the hacking attack happened because someone obtained the identity of top electoral commission IT official Chris Msando, who was found tortured and murdered late last month.
His other complaint was that results streaming in electronically had yet to be backed up by a scanned copy of tallies from constituencies.
IEBC says those forms are on their way and that the the results on its public website should not be considered final until they’ve been cross-checked.
The 72-year-old, who is making his fourth bid for the presidency as the flagbearer for the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, accused his rivals of stealing victory from him through rigging in 2007 and in 2013.
“You can only cheat a people for so long,” he said, but urged his supporters to “remain calm as we look deep into this matter.”
He then added: “I don’t control the people.”
International poll observers have issued statements calling for calm as the vote count continues, with former US secretary of state John Kerry, co-leader of the Carter Centre’s observation mission, urging Kenyans “not to jump to conclusions.”
– Old foes –
The contest between Odinga and Kenyatta was seen by pollsters as too close to call ahead of the vote.
This is the second time the two men have faced off in a presidential election, a dynastic rivalry that has lasted more than half a century since their fathers Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Odinga went from allies in the struggle for independence to bitter rivals.
Kenyatta, 55, is credited with overseeing steady economic growth of more than five percent.
But food prices have soared under his watch, and several major corruption scandals broke out in his first term.