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Opposition Disputes Early Results In Kenyan Election

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The votes are in and mostly counted from Kenya's presidential election. But the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, is making explosive accusations. He says the entire election was hacked. NPR's East Africa correspondent Eyder Peralta joins us now from Nairobi.

Hi, Eyder.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: So Kenyans were greeted this morning with an election result that they were not expecting.

PERALTA: They weren't. I mean, the polls were showing a really tight race. And they woke up to President Uhuru Kenyatta leading with more than the million votes, and that was with about 90 percent of the vote already counted. So everybody thought this thing was all but over. But then the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, called the press conference that has thrown the country - the whole system, really - into a state of confusion. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

RAILA ODINGA: We have asked our people to remain calm as we go deeper into this matter. But we have also told them that this a fraud of a monumental gravity and that, therefore, they should just understand we didn't have an election.

PERALTA: So he's saying a fraud of monumental gravity, as if they never had an election.

MARTIN: Wow. So what evidence does he have? I mean, why is he saying that this election was victimized by such widespread fraud?

PERALTA: So you're going to have to bear with me a little bit as I tie a couple of threads together.

MARTIN: OK.

PERALTA: So about a week before elections, a key elections official was tortured and murdered. He was the guy in charge of Kenya's new electronic reporting system. And what Odinga is saying, is that hackers took that man's credentials - his login information - to manipulate the results that were being reported to the Kenyan people. In his words, the hackers infected the system with an algorithm that automatically added votes to Uhuru Kenyatta, the incumbent president, and took votes away from him.

I mean, if true, this is a huge conspiracy - I mean, vote-rigging of monumental proportions. And Odinga came out with 50 pages of what looked to be server logs to support his position. But he wouldn't say where he got the information from. All he would say is that they did not hack the servers to get it.

MARTIN: So, I mean, at the very least, it sows confusion and distrust in the electoral system there. But, I mean, disputed elections in Kenya have been deadly violent in the past. Any fears of that here?

PERALTA: That's the hardest thing to be able to tell. I mean, you know, the violence in 2007 and 2008 stemmed - began because of reports of irregularities. And if what Raila Odinga says is true, then this kind of rigging would put these elections on that same league. Also, I don't think you can overstate what these elections mean for about half of this country.

Odinga has said that this is his fourth and final presidential run. And Odinga is part of a dynasty here. His father was the country's first vice president. And he has been the perennial opposition leader. For this run, Odinga had put together what he called the super coalition. Lots of past rivals dropped their own presidential ambitions to get him the presidency. So I think there's no doubt that all the ingredients - passion, disappointment, claims of rigging - are in place for unrest.

But, you know, I've spent a lot of time talking to Kenyans over the past year. And, you know, I think 2007 and 2008 weighs really heavily on them. More than 1,000 Kenyans were killed because of tribal violence at the time. And I think Kenyans still feel a deep shame about what happened. And I think that might actually keep things this time around from snowballing into the type of clashes that we saw in '07 and '08. I mean, that said, you know, we've already seen reports that police have fired tear gas into a crowd in Kisumu, which is a Raila Odinga stronghold.

MARTIN: OK, we will keep following it. NPR's Eyder Peralta sharing his reporting on the elections that just took place in Nairobi, Kenya. Eyder, thanks so much.

PERALTA: Thank you, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF BERRY WEIGHT'S "THE WAY OF THE DODO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.