By Ebi Kesiena
Violent protests have erupted in Raila Odinga’s stronghold of Kisumu and parts of Nairobi after he lost his fifth bid for Kenya’s presidency on Monday, with angry demonstrators alleging vote-rigging as police fired tear gas to disperse them.
Odinga, 77, a veteran opposition politician now backed by the ruling party, has not spoken in public since the results were announced, but has accused his opponents of cheating him out of victory in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 presidential elections.
The 2007 polls in particular which many independent observers also considered deeply flawed cast a long shadow over Kenyan politics, unleashing a wave of ethnic violence that pitted tribal groups against each other and cost more than 1,100 lives.
As news of the results filtered through to Kisumu, large numbers of protesters congregated on a roundabout in the lakeside city, throwing stones and setting tyres on fire as they blocked roads with broken rocks.
“It was not free and fair. We were cheated,” 26-year-old Odinga supporter Collins Odoyo told AFP as he rushed off to join the crowd, barefoot and with a vuvuzela horn strapped across his back.
‘You can’t steal from us’
“The government must listen to us. They must redo the election,” said Isaac Onyango, 24, his eyes streaming as police tried to defuse the demonstration with tear gas.
“You can’t steal from us!” shouted a young man in a balaclava wielding a club.
As tensions spike following the disputed outcome of the August 9 vote, 55-year-old president-elect William Ruto vowed to work with “all leaders”.
“There is no room for vengeance,” he said. “I am acutely aware that our country is at a stage where we need all hands on deck.”
AFP correspondents reported that police fired live rounds as protests erupted in the Nairobi slum of Mathare where Odinga is popular.
And across town in Kibera, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, young supporters, who refer to him as “Baba” or “father” in Swahili, demanded a re-run as they hurled stones.
“Baba’s vote has been stolen,” said motorcycle taxi driver Emmanuel Otieno.
“Stop lying to Kenyans, we know Baba won,” said another protester, Eliud Omolo, waving a banner supporting Odinga.