Tear gas in Kenya as Prime Minister files suit

Police in Kenya lobbed tear gas on crowds supporting the Prime Minister as he filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to void the Presidential Election.

Updated: Mar 16, 2013, 20:10 PM IST

Nairobi: Police in Kenya lobbed tear gas on Saturday on crowds supporting the Prime Minister as he filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to void the Presidential Election, a vote the Prime Minister says was neither free nor fair.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga`s court filing comes a week after Kenya`s election commission declared Uhuru Kenyatta the son of Kenya`s founding father the winner of the country`s March 04 vote. Kenyatta won by a hair, with 50.07 percent of the vote, breaking the 50 percent mark by about 8,000 votes out of 12.3 million cast.

Kenya`s election has been largely peaceful, unlike the disputed 2007 vote that sparked two months of violence that killed more than 1,000 people.

But downtown Nairobi carried the scent of tear gas today after police threw canisters at Odinga supporters who gathered despite warnings from police.

A news agency’s reporter at the scene said the supporters were not demonstrating or being violent when the police lobbed the tear gas.

Later, police lobbed more tear gas at supporters gathered in front of the Supreme Court building.

"It`s everyone`s right to hold demonstrations, but police will stop demonstrations that may have ramifications on security," said police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi.

"Police are taking precautionary measures to warn people to disperse, but if they don`t we will use minimum force. Their presence can create unnecessary tension. Already we are seeing pockets of volatility."

The petition filed today asks the court to set aside the announcement by the election commission on March 09 that Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto had won the presidency and deputy presidency.

Odinga came in second in the eight-candidate field with 43 percent of the vote. He had hoped to keep Kenyatta under the 50 percent mark and force a two-man runoff.

The Odinga petition says that the voter register was altered and "mysteriously grew overnight by a large proportion" on the eve of the election.

Votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters in several locations, it said, adding that the change in the number of registered voters was to allow the election commission to manipulate the election results.

The petition said that the electronic voter ID and biometric voter registration systems were "so poorly selected, designed and implemented that they were destined to fail," which forced the election commission to revert to a "discredited manual system" that carried risks for abuse and manipulation.