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Protesters Dispute Kibaki Victory in Kenya Election

Newly re-elected Kenya President Mwai Kibaki (R) is sworn in for a second term on Sunday.
Simon Maina
Newly re-elected Kenya President Mwai Kibaki (R) is sworn in for a second term on Sunday.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has taken the oath of office for a second term amid widespread protest.

Kibaki claimed a dramatic, come-from-behind victory over challenger Raila Odinga in the tightest presidential race in Kenya's history. Fewer than 300,000 votes separated the two candidates in the final tally.

Odinga, his many supporters and even international observers question the tally.

Kibaki took the oath of office less than an hour after the results were announced, but his appeal for unity rang hollow throughout much of Kenya.

Armed soldiers and police were in full force, and live television news broadcasts were snatched off the air.

In Nairobi's immense slum of Kibera, people said Kibaki stole the election from Odinga, the long-time front-runner.

Luos Cry Foul

"There's a war now here in Kibera. There's a thief!" said J.J. Manoti.

"This is Raila's time. That's what I know. Raila's time to be president is now," said Kelley Omondi. He called the election results bogus and said Kibaki should have conceded.

"Remember, there are times in the U.S.A. when Bush and Gore, they were fighting it out. Al Gore, he conceded," Omandi said.

International observers also disputed some of the results.

"The figures of President Kibaki have been inflated by as much as 300,000 votes. That is the kind of rigging we are talking about," said Odinga.

Odinga Demands Recount

Odinga had been poised to become Kenya's first ethnic Luo president. At the Election Commission on Sunday he called for a recount.

"You can see the chairman here is under a lot of pressure, completely. But we want to tell the members of the commission, the destiny of the country is in their hands," he said.

The commissioners then quietly moved to another room at their headquarters and called Kibaki the winner by fewer than 300,000 votes. Within minutes, riot police were on the street and Kibaki was sworn in.

Andrew Ndegwa, a resident of the Kibera slum dominated by Luos, said he has a different set of problems with the Kibaki win. He is a Kikuyu, the same ethnic group as Kibaki. Ndegwa said Luos are now after the Kikuyus.

"If they find any Kikuyu person loitering around, they just start cutting. Many of our people are going. My wife, I don't know where she is going to escape," he said.

Kibaki has declared Monday a national holiday; the Odinga camp is planning an alternative inaugural ceremony.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Gwen Thompkins
Gwen Thompkins hosts Music Inside Out on WWNO in New Orleans.