Kenya’s veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga has said he will not participate in the fresh presidential election ordered by the country’s supreme court after he challenged the original result.
His decision to withdraw, which he said was prompted by no prospect of a credible election, leaves the re-run, set for 26 October, in disarray.
Odinga, 72, said he had taken the decision in “the interests of the people of Kenya, the region and the world at large”. He called on people to protest on Wednesday, using the slogan “no reform, no elections”.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was originally declared the winner of the August poll with 54% of the vote.
Election observers and western officials had called on Odinga to accept defeat, saying they had found no evidence of “centralised manipulation”. But Odinga, who who had been defeated in two previous runs for president, took the case to Kenya’s highest court and judges voted 4-2 in his favour last month.
He claimed the electronic voting results were hacked and manipulated in favour of the incumbent. Among the reforms Odinga had demanded were the replacement of suppliers of equipment used to transmit election results and the replacement of electoral officials the opposition claimed were complicit in electoral fraud.
It was the first time a court had overturned the results of a presidential election in Africa and surprised many who considered the courts to have long been in thrall to the president.
It aroused fears that it could foment political chaos. Kenya, east Africa’s biggest economy, has a history of disputed elections and political violence.
Odinga’s claims of vote rigging in the 2007 elections prompted rioting and retaliation by security forces. About 1,200 people were killed in ethnic violence. He also claimed the 2013 poll was rigged.
Kenyatta is from the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest ethnic community, and Odinga from the Luo, which has long felt marginalised.
Their fathers, Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Odinga, had been allies in the struggle for independence from Britain but later became bitter rivals.
The president, who has been in power since 2013, expressed regret about the court’s judgement but said he respected it, calling for “peace, peace, peace” in a televised address.