Kenya opposition leader urges boycott of repeat elections

Supporters of Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga take part during a rally at the Uhuru Park in Nairobi Wednesday. (Reuters)
Updated 25 October 2017
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Kenya opposition leader urges boycott of repeat elections

NAIROBI, Kenya: The leader of Kenya’s main opposition party urged his supporters to boycott a rerun of the country’s disputed presidential election scheduled for Thursday amid rising political tensions and fears of violence.
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga urged his political coalition to become a “resistance movement” and called on them to boycott Thursday’s repeat presidential election.
“Do not participate,” he said at a rally in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park of Thursday’s re-run of the presidential election.
The country’s Supreme Court on Wednesday failed to muster enough judges to hear a last-minute petition to postpone the elections.
Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga appeared alone in the courtroom and said that only he and one other judge had shown up for the hearing. The shooting of one judge’s driver the evening before raised fears about intimidation of the judiciary.
Outside the court, hundreds of women in white scarves gathered to call for peace amid rising uncertainty and fears of violence. Jubilant supporters of President Uhuru Kenyatta celebrated the news that the elections will proceed.
In Uhuru Park hundreds of opposition supporters gathered to hear Odinga speak. Police had earlier banned the rally, but stood back and allowed it to take place.
The Supreme Court hearing was to hear a petition filed by three Kenyans, including a human rights activist, who urged the court to postpone Thursday’s election, arguing that electoral officials have said they cannot ensure the polls will be free, fair and credible.
Harun Ndubi, a lawyer for the petitioners, suggested that some judges who did not attend the hearing may have violated their constitutional duties.
“The justices must forever be available,” said Ndubi, though he acknowledged that the deputy chief justice whose police driver was injured in a shooting Tuesday evening may have been genuinely troubled.
“For the others, I don’t buy their explanation,” he said. “I don’t see a credible or legitimate election happening tomorrow,” Ndubi said, adding that the vote, if it occurs Thursday, “would be a farce.”
Busloads of opposition supporters arrived for a rally at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, despite a police ban on the gathering. Opposition leader Raila Odinga is scheduled to address the demonstration. Police were at the park, but kept their distance from the opposition supporters. The mood at the rally was mostly cheerful and even celebratory. People danced, blew whistles and vuvuzelas, and banged drums. Orange caps and T-shirts with Odinga’s initials, R.A.O., were handed out to the delight of the crowd.
Across the country, at the opposition stronghold of Kisumu, in western Kenya, Odinga supporters suggested they would disrupt Thursday’s elections.
The Supreme Court court shocked Kenya last month when it nullified President Kenyatta’s August re-election, citing irregularities and illegalities and the electoral commission’s unwillingness to let court-appointed technicians scrutinize its computer system. Opposition leader Odinga had challenged Kenyatta’s victory, claiming hackers had infiltrated the computer servers and manipulated the vote.
Odinga has said he will boycott the new election because the electoral commission has not been reformed. Kenyatta has insisted the Thursday vote will continue.


Priest in stable condition after stabbing at Montreal church

Updated 3 min 55 sec ago
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Priest in stable condition after stabbing at Montreal church

MONTREAL: A Canadian Catholic priest was stabbed in front of dozens of stunned worshippers as he was celebrating mass Friday morning at Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory.
Montreal police said a 911 call was placed at around 8:40 a.m. local time. When officers arrived at the landmark church, a male suspect was already detained by security guards.
Philip Barrett, who was sitting near the front of the church, said he saw a tall man, who appeared to be a Caucasian in his 30s, rise from a pew and quickly walk to attack Rev. Claude Grou, the Oratory’s rector.
“He walked over behind the altar and he seemed to strike the priest’s body,” Barrett said. “I think the priest fell down at that time. I do remember the priest was moving away from the man but it happened so quickly there was almost no time to react.”
The service was live-streamed on a Catholic channel. Video shows a tall man in a dark jacket and white baseball cap rounding the altar and charging at Grou as he thrusts his right arm toward the priest. Grou runs backward a few steps before the assailant pushes him into a banner.
As screams are heard in the background, a group of people run forward, surrounding and blocking the suspect.
Barrett said people quickly restrained the suspect, who did not struggle. He said the suspect didn’t speak or call out during the attack.
There was no other information immediately available about why the priest may have been attacked.
Police spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils says the victim suffered minor injuries to his upper body and was taken to the hospital.
The suspect was to be questioned by police Friday morning.
Barrett said Grou crumpled to the ground after the attack, but he appeared to be conscious and alert about 15 minutes later when paramedics wheeled him to an ambulance.
He said members of the congregation immediately began praying.
“We’re reassured, because when he left the oratory he was conscious and could talk, which we see as a good sign,” said Celine Barbeau, a spokeswoman for the church.
St. Joseph’s Oratory is among Canada’s largest churches, and pilgrims from all over the world are drawn to its domed roof and stunning architecture.
Barrett said that he, like the rest of the roughly 60 people present, was shocked that an attack would happen in a place he has come to see as a haven.
“I really find it’s a welcoming place,” he said. “I just hope that as a result of this, I mean, I can imagine they’re going to need more security, but I hope they can still keep that welcoming spirit.”