What's Next For Kenya
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Kenya's Supreme Court has thrown the country back into a presidential campaign. Opposition leader Raila Odinga made allegations of fraud, and the court threw out the results. That nullified the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta. NPR's East African correspondent, Eyder Peralta, joins us from Nairobi. Eyder, thanks so much for being with us.
EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey, Scott.
SIMON: This ruling that came down on Friday was an enormous surprise. And remind us of why, please.
PERALTA: Yeah. I mean, this is - it's a big deal, I mean, first of all, because Kenya - the whole continent, really - defers to presidents. And this is the judiciary ruling against a sitting president and overturning an election. We could only find one other instance in history on the continent. But this is also stunning because it was just really dramatic. International observers had said process was above board. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who was observing the elections for the Carter Center, said they found only, quote, "little aberrations" here and there. But the opposition claimed that the elections were hacked by people using the credentials of a murdered elections official. And they said it was part of a vast conspiracy to steal a third election from Raila Odinga.
SIMON: Has the court found that the elections were actually hacked?
PERALTA: No. The court decision - the court didn't explain what happened, really. You know, they basically left open two possibilities - that the elections board acted illegally and basically rigged the elections or that they were just incompetent. I've spent the past three weeks here reading hundreds of pages of documents, talking to politicians and experts, trying to get to an approximation of the truth. And one of the things that did become clear toward the end of the trial is that a lot of things were suspicious. I'll give you one example. So each constituency or county, as we would call it in the U.S., has to add up all of its polling stations and fill out these tallying forms. To make sure that nobody could forge these things, the forms had - they had security features. One of them was a watermark that you could only see under a UV light. But when the court ordered the registrar to look through these forms, it found that 20 percent of them were missing that watermark.
Matt Bernhard and his colleagues at the University of Michigan have also been looking at the elections. And they've just found a lot of weirdness. A statistical analysis, for example, showed that in some places, there were more voters than people. And in some of the computer logs that the opposition released, Bernhard found that some of the electronically transmitted forms were overwritten many times. But were the elections rigged? Here's a bit of what Matt Bernhard told me.
MATT BERNHARD: It's really bizarre to me that, you know, an election board would pledge to make all of these changes to have verifiable, you know, audit trails and stuff and then just totally, you know, either ignore them or not implement them at all. Honestly, it's one of those things where we're not going to know probably ever.
PERALTA: So it could be foul play, he says. Or it could be sloppiness. And part of the reason it's hard to tell which it is is because running elections is really complicated. And it's just not an easy thing to do.
SIMON: Well, are there going to be a new round of elections then?
PERALTA: There are. So the court has ordered new elections within 60 days. But there's a big problem. The opposition still maintains that the IEBC, which is the electoral commission, is corrupt. And the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, called on its top leaders to step down. So I think this is the next battleground here.
SIMON: NPR's East Africa correspondent, Eyder Peralta, speaking from Nairobi. Eyder, thanks so much for being with us.
PERALTA: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.