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Kenya’s defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga vowed Tuesday to pursue ‘all constitutional and legal options’ after rejecting the outcome of elections that awarded victory to his rival William Ruto.
The 77-year-old veteran politician branded the result of the August 9 race a ‘travesty’ but stopped short of explicitly announcing that he would mount a challenge at the Supreme Court.
‘What we saw yesterday (Monday) was a travesty and a blatant disregard of the consitution and the laws of Kenya,” he told a press conference in Nairobi, blaming the head of the commission that oversaw the poll.
‘I do not want to fully address our strategies going forward but… we will be pursuing all constitutional and legal options available to us.’
Odinga narrowly lost his fifth bid for the top job to Deputy President Ruto, who was proclaimed president-elect Monday after a nail-biting wait for results.
His supporters had earlier rejected the outcome, which also triggered divisions in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which issued the results.
The poll’s aftermath is being keenly watched as a test of democratic maturity in the East African powerhouse, where past elections have been tarnished by claims of rigging and bloodshed.
Odinga lost by around 230,000 votes despite the support of his old foe, the outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, and the weight of the ruling party machinery behind him.
No presidential poll outcome has gone uncontested in Kenya since 2002, and Odinga says he was already cheated of victory in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 elections.
Kenya’s worst electoral violence occurred after the 2007 vote, when more than 1,100 people died in bloodletting between rival tribes.
On the campaign trail, both frontrunners pledged to resolve any disputes in court rather than on the streets.
Violent protests nevertheless erupted in Odinga’s strongholds in Nairobi slums and the lakeside city of Kisumu on Monday evening, although the situation was calm Tuesday.
Odinga on Tuesday commended his supporters ‘for remaining calm and keeping the peace’.
‘Let no-one take the law into their own hands,’ he said.
Weary Kenyans, already struggling with a severe cost of living crisis, say they just want to get on with their lives.
‘I don’t think we need to protest. We need to fend for our families. Protests are expensive. It can even cost you your life,’ said Bernard Isedia, a 32-year-old taxi driver and father of two who voted for Odinga.
‘Life has to return to normal,’ he told reporters.
‘Raila Odinga should come out and tell people to calm down. His word alone will calm this country down.’
Ruto, the 55-old deputy president who was banished to the sidelines after Kenyatta’s pact with Odinga, was conciliatory in his victory speech Monday.
‘I will work with all leaders in Kenya so that we can fashion a country that leaves nobody behind,’ Ruto said, pledging to run a ‘transparent, democratic, open government’.
‘There is no room for vengeance.’