30 March 2013

Kenyan Court Upholds Kenyatta Election, Odinga Concedes

Defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga has accepted a ruling from Kenya's Supreme Court upholding Uhuru Kenyatta's victory in general elections. Kenyan police are on alert for unrest following the court's decision.

Odinga told a press conference on Saturday that he accepted the ruling of the Supreme Court, which had come just a few hours earlier.

"The court has now spoken," Odinga said. "I wish the president-elect, honorable Uhuru Kenyatta, and his team well."

He added that he regretted that some of the evidence his team presented had been disallowed, saying "in the end Kenyans lost their right to know what indeed happened."

Kenya's chief justice Willy Mutunga said on Saturday that the six-member court unanimously ruled that the election of Uhuru Kenyatta had been conducted in a "free, fair, transparent and credible" manner.

"It is the decision that the third and fourth respondents were validly elected," Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said in court, referring to Kenyatta and his running mate and deputy president William Ruto.

Voting discrepancies

Odinga was Kenyatta's main contender in the March 4 vote and had alleged that the result was affected by both technical problems and vote rigging.

Closing arguments in the court on Friday highlighted the findings of a court report, which found peculiarities in the partial recounting of votes at five out of 22 polling stations.

It was alleged that discrepancies were found in scores of other locations.

Kenyatta appeared to have won by a wafer-thin margin with 50.07 percent of the vote, barely surpassing the 50 percent mark out of 12.3 million votes cast.

Odinga's lawyer, George Oraro, had called upon the court to cancel results from voting areas that appeared to show problems.

Anxiety over conflict

The poll is being viewed with trepidation given the violence that occurred in the country following the last election in 2007.

After that poll, Odinga refused to seek arbitration over the election results, which many said had been flawed. Street protests ensued that descended into tribal violence.

Police had increased their presence ahead of the court's decision and have seen some small-scale conflicts with angry Odinga supporters.

However, both politicians had said they would accept the court's decision and would not allow the type of anarchy that claimed more than 1,200 lives.

Kenyatta faces charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague over allegations that he helped incite the post-election violence.

Kenya adopted a new constitution in 2010 in an effort to avoid the postelection violence of the past.

- AFP, AP, Reuters

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