Nairobi- The leader of Kenya’s opposition has claimed he was cheated of victory by an overnight hacking attack that he said manipulated the results in the country’s presidential election.
“You can only cheat the people for so long,” Raila Odinga said. “The 2017 general election was a fraud.”
With ballots from 94% of polling stations counted, results released by Kenya’s electoral commission showed the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, leading with 54.4% of the vote, against Odinga’s 44.8%, a difference of 1.3 million votes.
Millions of people queued late into the evening on Tuesday to cast their votes in an election seen as a key test of the stability of one of Africa’s most important countries.
Though the polls passed peacefully, there are fears that Odinga’s angry supporters could take their struggle for power to the streets in the coming days.
Speaking at a news conference in Nairobi, Odinga claimed hackers had broken into election commission computer systems and databases overnight to “create errors”. He urged his supporters to remain calm, but added: “I don’t control the people.”
Odinga’s deputy in the National Super Alliance (NASA), Kalonzo Musyoka, also appealed for calm but said the opposition might call for unspecified “action” at a later date.
Shortly afterwards, Kenyan police in the western city of Kisumu fired teargas at a group of 100 opposition supporters who had been chanting “No Raila, no peace”. Protests were also held in the poor Nairobi neighbourhood of Mathare, an Odinga stronghold.
In 2007, Odinga’s angry rejection of the result in an election marred by irregularities prompted rioting and retaliation by security forces that tipped the country into its worst crisis for decades. About 1,200 people were killed in the ethnic violence that followed.
Odinga, a polarising figure who was making his fourth bid for power, said on Tuesday night that the early results were “fictitious” and “fake”, telling a late-night news conference that his party’s own tally put him ahead.
“We have our projections from our agents which show we are ahead by far,” Odinga said.
The former political prisoner and businessman also claimed that the murder of a senior election official last week was linked to an attempt to rig the polls. Chris Msando, the election commission’s head of IT, was found strangled and tortured in a forest on the outskirts of Nairobi.
The EU observer mission declined to comment on Odinga’s claims, which election officials have said they will investigate. “We will come up with a methodology to verify the allegations made on hacking,” said Waguma Chebukati, the chairman of the electoral commission. “For now, I cannot say whether or not the system has been hacked.