31 December 2007

Kenya: Violence Erupts After Kibaki Sworn in

Nairobi — President Kibaki was sworn in Sunday for a second and final term as Head of State as riots and protests erupted in parts of the country over the disputed presidential results.

And shortly afterwards, the ODM leadership insisted that Kenyans had elected Mr Raila Odinga "as the legitimate president" and were "ready to see him serve democratically".

The statement read in Nairobi by Narok North MP-elect William Ntimama outlined the party's plan for today.

After being sworn in at State House Nairobi, President Kibaki asked his opponents to accept the outcome of the polls, which he described as "credible".

Credible elections

"I thank the ECK, security agents, observers and all other players for remaining committed to the conduct of honest, orderly and credible elections that have enabled the true verdict of the people to prevail," he said.

In other developments, the Government through Internal Security minister John Michuki suspended all live broadcasts by television and radio stations and threatened to arrest anyone publishing alarming materials.

The live broadcast of Mr Ntimama's statement from Orange House was interrupted after the order.

Today, the Media council, which regulates journalistic conduct, will meet to consider a response to the minister's order.

Before announcing the results on KBC television, Mr Kivuitu said: "A lot of things which were said were not correct but one can understand when an election is this close. In an election, there are invariably winners and losers. While the winner celebrates, it is unpleasant to lose. Furthermore, the backers (of the loser) will be disappointed... The contest this year was furious. Negative ethnicity did not help".

Violence erupted in parts of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kakamega while President Kibaki's supporters in Central Province and parts of Nairobi broke into celebrations.

The European Union chief election observer, Mr Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, said the ECK had not succeeded in establishing the credibility of the tallying process to the satisfaction of all parties and candidates in the presidential race.

"The result for the Molo constituency, for example, was announced in the presence of EU observers at the constituency tally centre as 50,145 votes for President Kibaki, while the ECK declared the result for the President to be 75,261 votes," he said.

Doubts remain

"Because of this and other observed irregularities, some doubt remains as to the accuracy of the result of the presidential election as announced today," he said in a statement.

The President was sworn in by High Court registrar Christine Meoli at 6.35pm within the grounds of State House, Nairobi, exactly five years from the date when he first assumed office in 2003.

Electoral Commission of Kenya chairman Samuel Kivuitu declared President Kibaki duly elected with 4,584,721 votes against ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga who had 4,352,993 votes.

At the end of the closest presidential race since the reintroduction of multi-party politics in 1992, only 231,728 votes separated President Kibaki and Mr Odinga.

Day of chaos

Sunday's events were the culmination of a second day of chaos and protests at the manner in which the results were being released.

Demonstrations, looting and burning of property were reported in parts of Nairobi where a commuter bus was reduced to ashes.

Cases of violence were also reported in Kibera, South "B", Kariobangi North, Jamhuri estate, Komorack, Juja Road and Eastleigh in Nairobi and Eldoret, Kericho and Kisumu.

Suspicion and claims of vote rigging delayed the announcement of the final results for at least six hours.

Politicians from both sides engaged the ECK in a shouting match for much of the morning as they argued over the number of presidential votes that each of their candidates had garnered after Thursday's election.

The ECK and two agents of every presidential candidate spent Saturday night verifying results from all constituencies except Kajiado North and Molo whose outcome had not been received.

ODM secretary-general Anyang' Nyong'o said the night-long audit was meant to ensure that the correct figures scored by each were the ones to be announced by the commission.

Prof Nyong'o said ODM would not accept the final outcome unless the verification report was made public.

"The electoral commission must first make public the audit report of all the votes that they went through at night before its chairman announces who the winner of the election is. If the announcement is made without the verification report, we in ODM will find it difficult to accept the results," he said at a press conference at KICC.

Strong teams from PNU and ODM arrived at the ECK media centre at 8am anxious to know the fate of their presidential candidates.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua and Mr George Nyamweya represented PNU, while Ugenya MP James Orengo and Mr Otiende Amolo represented ODM.

Exchange of blows

At 11.57am there was a near exchange of blows over seating arrangements at the front row pitting assistant minister Danson Mungatana of PNU and ODM party agent Joseph Misoi.

At 12.06pm Ms Karua and Mr Nyamweya were called from the media centre to join the ODM team upstairs in resolving the deadlock that had delayed the announcement of the results.

When the results were finally announced, Kibaki was declared with winner, followed by Mr Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka of ODM-Kenya.

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