Kenya’s President Opens Parliament Amid Opposition Boycott

There is more drama on the Kenyan election front, as incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta opened parliament to an audience of ruling party members only.

“I would like to make it abundantly clear that the government will not tolerate anyone intent on disrupting our hard-won peace and stability. Under no circumstances must Kenyans ever allow our free, competitive process to become a threat to the peace and security of our nation,” Kenyatta said.

Opposition lawmakers boycotted the proceedings, questioning Kenyatta’s mandate following a Supreme Court ruling that nullified the results of the August 8 presidential election.

The court said that election, won by Kenyatta, was tainted due to “irregularities and illegalities” in the transmission of vote counts.

After the ruling, Kenyatta referred to the court justices as “crooks.” But the president struck a different tone Tuesday, as he called for the three arms of government to respect the will of the people.

“It must be understood that marked ballots represent more than technology, more than the computer systems, or even where the papers were printed. The mark is the choice. The mark is the choice of sovereign people; their choice is secret and must never again be frustrated or ignored,” said Kenyatta.

A few kilometers away from parliament, in the Nairobi slum of Kibera, opposition leader Raila Odinga maintained his position that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission must be fixed.

“We are saying that we are not ready to go for an election, with the IEBC as currently constituted. We have given conditions under which we will participate in these elections. And we are saying that unless those conditions are fulfilled, there will be no elections on the 17th of October next month,” Odinga said.

On Monday, a member of parliament and a former senator were arrested on hate speech allegations. MP Moses Kuria allegedly encouraged a “manhunt” of opposition supporters, while Senator Johnson Muthama is accused of giving a defamatory speech aimed at Kenyatta.

The ruling Jubilee party and the opposition NASA coalition met separately Tuesday with the electoral commission. The opposition said it was given a document without sufficient time for review, while the ruling party said it was happy to move into the next elections with the current configuration of the IEBC.

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