Kenya opposition leader: Supporters should boycott polls, hold prayers

Kenya opposition leader Raila Odinga says he wants new elections held within 90 days.

FILE: Kenya's opposition party Coalition for Reforms and Democracy leader Raila Odinga on 6 June 2016 in Nairobi. Picture: AFP.

NAIROBI - Kenya opposition leader Raila Odinga urged supporters to boycott Thursday’s repeat presidential election and persuade their friends to do the same, saying his opposition movement would be transformed into a resistance movement against the government.

“From today we are transforming the NASA coalition into a resistance movement,” he told a cheering crowd of thousands of people in Uhuru Park in the capital of Nairobi. He wants new elections held within 90 days, he said.

Odinga is boycotting the contest against incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta. He says it will not be free and fair because the election board has not made sufficient progress in carrying out reforms he demanded after the original election held in August was annulled.

The country’s Supreme Court is still hearing several cases challenging the legality of Thursday’s poll or Odinga’s withdrawal.

At least 49 people have died in political violence since the August ballot, evoking unwelcome memories of the aftermath of a disputed 2007 poll, when more than 1,200 people were killed.

The political stand-off has also blunted growth in East Africa’s richest economy, a nation valued for its stability and relative freedom in a region roiled by conflict.

Last week Odinga supporters disrupted at least three official pre-polling events. Police said some election board staff were seriously injured.