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Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga vowed Sunday not to back down over an election he claims was stolen from him and urged his supporters to boycott work while he mulls his next move.
The 72-year-old emerged for the first time since his election defeat on Friday night, urging massive crowds in Nairobi’s Kibera and Mathare slums to stay away from work Monday and steer clear of police after 16 people were killed in protests.
“We had predicted they will steal the election and that’s what happened. We are not done yet. We will not give up. Wait for the next course of action which I will announce the day after tomorrow (Tuesday),” he told a heaving crowd of supporters in the capital’s largest slum, Kibera.
Politics in Kenya is largely divided along tribal lines, and the winner-takes-all nature of elections has long stoked communal divisions.
Three of Kenya’s four presidents have been Kikuyu and the other Kalenjin, leaving Luos and other major ethnic groups feeling excluded from power and marginalised for over half a century.
In 2007 Odinga and his allies claimed an election was stolen by Mwai Kibaki — a Kikuyu. Foreign observers agreed there had been irregularities.
Political grievances — over land and access to power linked to old ethnic fault lines — burst into the open, leading to two months of violence which left 1,100 people dead and 600,000 displaced.
“The reason elections have become a trigger for violence is the relationship between power and prosperity. It is a zero-sum game and winning becomes a life and death matter, hence losing is not an option,” the Daily Nation wrote in its editorial.
Odinga, who scored nearly 45 percent of votes, has a huge following notably among the poor who are drawn to his platform of more equitable economic growth.
– ‘We are ready to die’ –
Odinga’s National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition has insisted he was robbed of victory through hacking and manipulation of an electronic vote tallying system.
Local election observer group ELOG, which deployed 8,300 observers and conducted a parallel tallying operation, determined Kenyatta had won with 54 percent — the same figure given by the electoral commission.
The United Nations, Britain, France and the European Union have issued statements urging Odinga to call his supporters to calm and use legal means to express his grievances.
However NASA ruled out turning to court, where Odinga lost a claim against a disputed election in 2013.
The election was his fourth failed shot at the presidency.
“We’re very ready for whatever will come,” said Duncan Nyamo, an Odinga supporter who was among the crowd in Kibera. “We are ready to die.”