Odinga, the son of Jaramogi Odinga, Kenya’s first vice president, was a candidate in the 2013 election, as well. He lost by a wide margin to Kenyatta, 55, the son of Jomo Kenyatta, the country’s first president. That election was mostly peaceful. The latest election is seen as the last opportunity for Odinga to become president. Tensions were high because, among other things, polls showed the candidates neck-and-neck, they are the sons of Kenya’s two long-warring political dynasties, and from rival ethnic communities. All of this risked instability in East Africa’s largest and most vibrant economy, which is also an important Western ally in the war on terrorism.
The trouble with the latest election began when the initial results showed that Kenyatta was comfortably ahead of Odinga despite pre-election opinion polls suggesting a close race. Odinga claimed fraud, saying the IEBC’s database was hacked. What lent his claim a more than conspiratorial edge was the murder of Chris Msando, the acting head of technology at the IEBC. Just days before his body was discovered late last month in a forest outside Nairobi—officials said he was “tortured and murdered”—Msando appeared on national TV to tell Kenyans that election system was secure. Odinga claimed Tuesday that hackers gained entry into Kenya’s election database using Msando’s identity. He declined to reveal the source of his claim, but that didn’t prevent the eruption of violence in which five people were killed.
Despite his acknowledgment Thursday of a hacking attempt, Chebukati, the head of the election commission, said the system hadn’t been compromised. Here’s how that system works: Biometric measures are used to identify votes—in order to avoid fraud—and a results-management system adds the votes once they have been counted at individual polling stations. But this system isn’t foolproof—and has had mixed results when used in other parts of Africa, including, previously, Kenya.
International monitors, though, said the voting process itself was fair, adding any disputes should be resolved through the legal process.
“We affirm the conviction that the judicial process, the judicial system of Kenya and the election laws themselves make full and adequate provision for accountability in this election,” said John Kerry, the former U.S. secretary of state, who was an election observer for the Carter Center. “The streets do not.”
Martietje Schaake, the head the EU’s monitoring team, said there were “no signs of centralized or localized manipulation.” She added the mission “can look into the” allegations of fraud, “but more importantly will look at how the responsible authorities manage the issue.”
Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president who heads the African Union’s mission to observe the election, praised Kenyans for voting, but added: “It would be very regrettable if anything emerges afterwards that sought to corrupt the outcome, to spoil that outcome.” Mbeki said the AU mission had taken note of Odinga’s concerns, but said his team did not have the mandate to investigate the claims.