, WASHINGTON, United States, Nov 10 – Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga sharply criticized the role of Western diplomats and election observers in the recent presidential vote and warned Thursday that the country is moving toward “outright dictatorship.”
Odinga boycotted the presidential election held in September and has termed it a “sham.” Incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta secured 98 percent of the vote.
Eight days before the election, “the chairman of the electoral commission publicly, on a live television, said he was not able to deliver a free and fair election on that date,” Odinga told a conference organized by a think tank.
“But in a stand that has astounded Kenyans, Western envoys two days later announced that they believed the commission could hold a credible poll and supported that highly controversial election,” he said.
Odinga said he came to Washington with the message that more engagement is needed “to assist the envoys based in Nairobi.”
“The envoys’ efforts up to now have not succeeded in defusing the crisis,” and “have sometimes contributed to the problem.”
According to the 72-year-old opposition leader, “Kenya is hurtling towards an outright dictatorship” — the result of international policies that “exclusively focus on security and stability,” which he said diplomats in Nairobi incorrectly think “only Kenyatta can deliver.”
In reality, the electoral crisis is “a recipe for radicalization and extremism,” he said.
Even if the country’s Supreme Court again invalidates the vote as it did with polls held in August, further steps are needed.
“We need to have… an interim arrangement similar at what happened in South Africa, where both sides appointed a team to manage matters” on “an interim basis to make sure (changes) take place before a meaningful election is organized,” Odinga said.