‘Life has to move on’: Kenyans skip strike and go back to work as opposition leader Odinga mulls strategy
Deadly protests in the wake of disputed election plunged the African country into its worst political crisis since its 2007 election
Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga has been weighing his next move to contest an election he claims was rigged.
The 72-year-old insists he was the rightful winner of a “stolen” election last week and urged his supporters to stay away from work on Monday to mourn the deaths of those killed in angry protests against the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
However, after nearly a week in limbo during which many people missed work, Nairobi largely came back to life instead, with many unable to afford any more time away from their livelihoods.
Fruit seller Alex Kilonzo returned to his stand on a busy street corner, even though many nearby had not reopened.
“If I had money I could strike,” he said.
“Life has to move on,” said IT worker Kenneth Kiruja as he headed into the office for the first time since last Tuesday’s election, adding the opposition should take their grievances to court.
Odinga lost his fourth shot at the presidency and repeated the same claims he made in 2007 and 2013 that the vote was rigged.
His loss sparked angry protests over the weekend in his strongholds in the west of the country and Nairobi’s slums, leaving 16 people dead including a nine-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet.
Police have denied that innocent protesters had been killed, saying those shot dead were armed and attacked officers, many while carrying out criminal acts such as rape and looting.
The dispute plunged Kenya into its worst political crisis since Odinga lost a 2007 election that many observers agreed was riddled with irregularities.
That election exposed decades-old political and ethnic grievances over access to power and land that sparked two months of violence in which 1,100 people were killed and 600,000 displaced.
Three of Kenya’s four presidents have been ethnic Kikuyus and the other Kalenjin, leaving Luos and other ethnic groups feeling excluded from power and marginalised for decades.
While there have been efforts to dilute the winner-takes-all nature of Kenyan politics, critics argue the underlying fault lines have merely been papered over.
As a grim reminder of this, members of Odinga’s Luo group and those from Kenyatta’s Kikuyu group clashed violently in Nairobi’s Mathare slum on Sunday with sticks, rocks, bows and arrows.
Mobs set on a Luo man, and then later in revenge a Kikuyu man, leaving them bloodied and motionless.
Nairobi police chief Japheth Koome denied the incident happened: “We don’t have attacks in Mathare,” he told journalists.
Protests in Odinga’s strongholds have largely fizzled out, as supporters wait for his next move.
“We are not done yet. We will not give up. Wait for the next course of action,” Odinga told a crowd of thousands in Nairobi’s Kibera slum. Later on Twitter he wrote: “There is no turning back”.
The UN, Britain, France and the European Union have urged Odinga to use legal means to address his concerns.
Odinga and his National Super Alliance (NASA) claim electronic vote tallying systems were hacked and manipulated. But documents he has provided as evidence have been dismissed by the electoral commission.
He lost a court dispute in 2013 over another election he claimed was rigged, and this time NASA has said court is not an option.
Odinga has until Friday to lodge a court complaint.