The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Defeated Kenyan candidate declares election results ‘null and void’

Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga delivers an address to the nation at his campaign headquarters in downtown Nairobi on Aug. 16. (Ben Curtis/AP)
4 min

NAIROBI — Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga declared the results of the election “null and void” and promised to challenge them in court, ignoring calls for him to concede to declared winner William Ruto.

Ruto was named the winner of last week’s election by Wafula Chebukati, chair of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), on Monday — an announcement marred with allegations of vote-rigging and dissent among commission members over the close-fought race.

“The figures announced by Mr. Chebukati are null and void and must be crushed by a court of law,” Odinga said at a news conference. “I want to commend our supporters for remaining calm and keeping the peace and urge them to continue to do so. Let no one take the law into their own hands.”

“We are pursuing constitutional and lawful channels and processes to invalidate Mr. Chebukati’s illegal and unconstitutional pronouncement,” he added.

His statement raises the specter of violence between his supporters and the winner’s, which has marred past elections. So far, aside from scattered protests, Kenya has been quiet in the wake of the results.

“It is a relief Raila decided to go to court and asked his supporters to be calm and wait for the courts to decide,” said Meron Elias, the analyst for East and Southern Africa at the International Crisis Group think tank. “Despite the uncertainty, that’s a reassuring decision.”

Odinga’s announcement could bring a repeat of Kenya’s 2017 election outcome when his campaign challenged incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win in the Supreme Court, which went on to declare that vote invalid.

William Ruto declared winner of Kenya’s presidential election

Kenyatta still won the election rerun, however, after Odinga told his supporters not to vote, citing distrust in the electoral body. That period was marred by violent street protests and human rights violations.

On Monday afternoon, as the country waited for the election results, one of Odinga’s top election officials, Saitabao Ole Kanchory, said that they had reports the electoral system was “penetrated and hacked” and that “some of the IEBC officials committed electoral offenses.”

Minutes before the results were announced, four out of seven of Kenya’s electoral commissioners said they would not stand by them. In a news conference Tuesday, they said the results were declared by the chair before the commissioners all had a chance to consult on the tabulations and objections brought up by the parties.

“The issue that we have is with the process,” commissioner Justus Nyang’aya said shortly before Odinga’s news conference. “If that is not determined by the commissioners, then it remains the duty, role and responsibility of only one person in the boardroom.”

Monday’s announcement of a win for Ruto prompted celebrations around the country from his supporters. In Ngong Town, on the outskirts of Nairobi, drivers honked their horns and formed processions on the road as they celebrated. Meanwhile, in Ruto’s hometown of Sugoi, people celebrated till late.

In western Kenya’s Kisumu City, an Odinga support base, protesters briefly lit tires on the street, blocking the roads with rocks before police dispersed them.

Kenyans head to polls in tightly contested, closely watched election

This is expected to be Odinga’s last attempt at the presidency. It was the 77-year-old’s fifth try for the top job.

The country’s most serious spate of election violence came with Odinga’s 2007 loss to Mwai Kibaki by a narrow margin — also amid allegations of vote-rigging. Post-election violence left more than 1,000 dead and over 5,000 displaced.

In Kibera, a slum in Nairobi considered a stronghold for Odinga, crowds that had in previous days gathered to watch live broadcasts ahead of the results had dispersed. “The announcement was disappointing; whatever Odinga says is what we will do, he is our leader. We trust his judgment for the way forward,” said Job Owino, a supporter.

Mercy Wanjiru, 30, a resident of Mathare who was displaced during the 2007 post-election violence, said she was happy about Ruto’s win and was hoping Odinga would concede to avoid a repeat of the violence.

“We have a country to build,” she said. “It is now time to heal and move on.”