Incumbent Declared Winner in Kenya's Disputed Election

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By Stephanie McCrummen
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 31, 2007

NAIROBI, Dec. 30 -- As allegations of vote-rigging stoked protests and ethnically charged riots across this East African country Sunday, President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the closest presidential election in Kenya's history and swiftly sworn in for a second term.

As Kibaki took the oath of office on the green statehouse lawn, gray smoke rose from the sprawling tin-shack slums that are the strongholds of his main challenger, opposition firebrand Raila Odinga, who had been leading in opinion polls and refused to accept results he said were fixed.

A close legal adviser to Odinga said the opposition leader would not challenge the results in court, which could take years, but would "take our case to the court of public opinion," the streets.

As the sun set, thousands of ardent Odinga supporters raged through the muddy, foot-worn paths of Nairobi's biggest slum, Kibera, wielding nail-studded sticks, heavy rocks, hammers, machetes and flasks of alcohol, setting ablaze a market run mainly by Kibaki's tribe, the Kikuyu, and continuing on.

"The president is Raila!" the rioters shouted, banging the machetes on tin roofs before tearing them down. "No Raila! No peace! They have rigged the election!"

"The problem in Africa is people cannot accept defeat -- why?" said Kelley Omondi, 26, who pulled from his pocket a napkin scrawled with the results. "We are not protesting for nothing. . . . If Kibaki had won in a fair manner, we would agree."

By Sunday night, at least 15 people had been killed across the country as an election that began as one of the most open and competitive in Kenyan history descended into mistrust and chaos.

It was the second multiparty vote since Kenya, one of East Africa's most promising democracies and biggest economies, gained independence from Britain in 1963.

The contest came down to a race between Kibaki, a gentlemanly economist praised for his stewardship of Kenya's recent boom, and Odinga, a gloves-off crusader who promised to distribute the wealth more equitably, fight corruption and champion the poor.

But an undercurrent of tribalism ran through the campaign season, with Odinga accusing Kibaki of favoring his own ethnic group and raising suspicions that his inner circle would never relinquish power.

The announcement of Kibaki's victory came nearly three full days after Kenyans voted in record numbers -- and largely along tribal lines -- in an election that international observers had initially praised as peaceful and a model for democracies across the continent.

Especially in Nairobi's poorest enclaves, where domestic workers, peanut hawkers and others seemed eager for change, people stood in sweaty lines for more than eight hours to vote.


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