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.


Duterte asks why critical ex-police officer ‘is still alive’

Updated 19 min 41 sec ago
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Duterte asks why critical ex-police officer ‘is still alive’

  • More than 5,000 drug suspects have been killed in what police say were gunbattles that ensued during drug raids under Duterte’s crackdown, alarming Western governments and human rights groups
MANILA, Philippines: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday accused a dismissed police colonel, who had publicly criticized him and his deadly anti-drug campaign, of criminal involvement and said he wanted to know why the former officer “is still alive.”
In a late-night televised speech, Duterte condemned dismissed Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto, who told reporters over the weekend that the president had been repeatedly photographed with two Chinese men involved in drug trafficking.
Duterte defended one of the two Chinese men, saying he had accompanied China’s premier on a visit to the Philippines and was a businessman who traveled to the country in 1999 to sell Chinese-made cellphones.
Acierto, a veteran anti-narcotics officer before his dismissal by an anti-graft agency last year, said he submitted a report to top police officials and Duterte’s office about the two Chinese to warn the president of their background. But he said he was never informed if the two were ever investigated.
“In my investigation, I discovered that our president ... is often accompanied by two people deeply involved in illegal drugs,” Acierto told a news conference late Sunday in Manila, adding that he was later accused by authorities in a criminal complaint of involvement in drug smuggling instead of the Chinese men.
Duterte said Acierto was the only police official who has made the allegations against the two men. He said Acierto was an “idiot” allegedly involved in corruption, drug smuggling, kidnappings of Chinese nationals and the killing of a South Korean man.
“Don’t ever believe specially this Acierto,” Duterte said in a speech in southern Koronadal city. “What if I ask the military and the police, ‘Why is this son of a bitch still alive?“
Acierto denied any wrongdoing.
The president mentioned Acierto while talking about his efforts to combat corruption, including corrupt policemen. He also criticized and ridiculed opposition senatorial candidates running in mid-term elections in May.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino told The Associated Press on Monday that he received Acierto’s report and sent it to Duterte’s office, adding that both his office and that of the president took steps to validate the allegations against the two Chinese. He said the two were not on any list of drug suspects.
Aquino played down the photographs showing Duterte with the two Chinese men, saying officials often get approached by all sorts of people for group photographs without being able to rapidly check their background. He questioned the credibility of Acierto, who he accused of being linked to drug smuggling.
Profiles of the two Chinese provided by Acierto to reporters said they were involved in the “manufacturing, financing, the importation, transhipment and local distribution of meth or shabu,” referring to the local name for methamphetamine, a stimulant.
Acierto said he initially welcomed Duterte’s passion to combat illegal drugs. But he said he later realized that the president’s deadly crackdown took a wrong approach by targeting mostly poor drug suspects instead of going after powerful drug lords and traffickers.
More than 5,000 drug suspects have been killed in what police say were gunbattles that ensued during drug raids under Duterte’s crackdown, alarming Western governments and human rights groups.