Disputed presidential results stall business

A section of Moi Avenue remains empty on August 9, 2017. Photo | Kanyiri Wahito | NMG
A section of Moi Avenue remains empty on August 9, 2017. Photo | Kanyiri Wahito | NMG 

Economic activity came to a near standstill as the country grappled with an inconclusive outcome of Tuesday’s elections that opposition leader Raila Odinga said had been compromised.

Nairobi, the country’s capital and economic powerhouse, was deserted throughout, with thousands of business premises remaining under lock and key.

Kenya’s elections have always come with a measure apprehension, which heightened yesterday after Mr Odinga questioned the credibility of the preliminary results showing him trailing President Uhuru Kenyatta by a wide margin.

The Northern Corridor — the country’s major highway and a key transport artery that moves goods from the Mombasa port to the hinterland and landlocked neighbours such as Uganda and Rwanda — had just a handful of trucks, highlighting slow activity on the often clogged stretch.

Officials in neighbouring Rwanda said they had reduced the economy’s risk exposure to Kenya by opting to use the Central Corridor that passes through Tanzania to the Dar es Salaam port. This portends massive loss of business for Kenya.

The resulting slowdown in economic activity is expected to further depress growth from last year’s 5.8 per cent.

Most manufacturers closed their premises – a majority of the workers having either travelled to their rural homes or chosen to stay at home as the situation unfolds.

Consumer goods manufacturer Bidco said it had shut down its factories for 24 hours and resumed operations yesterday morning but most of its customers had chosen to stay away awaiting the outcome of the election before picking stocks.

“We resumed production today. But we are storing goods for our customers who are still awaiting the outcome of the election before we start distributing,” said Bidco chief executive Thiagarajan Ramamurthy, in what may add to inventory costs for the Thika-based firm.

Mathare protests

Maureen Njeri, a stall operator at the Nairobi’s Bus Station, was yesterday forced to close shop early and rush back home after she received a phone call informing her of disturbances in Mathare slums.

“There were protests but thankfully the police contained them,” she said on the phone from home.

Ms Njeri, however, said she would not reopen the shop because there were no customers and public utilities, including public toilets, were not operational.

Close early, low traffic

Business has also cooled down for night clubs like Rumourz on the city’s Moi Avenue, which is now forced to close at midnight as patrons stay home.

Banks, eateries and supermarkets were open but recorded thin traffic in Nairobi and major towns across the country.

Most businesses in Nairobi closed their premises the day after the election. Photo | Kanyiri Wahito | NMG
Most businesses in Nairobi closed their premises the day after the election. Photo | Kanyiri Wahito | NMG

Kenyans remain skittish, fearing that the country might implode into violence as it did in 2007, claiming more than 1,000 lives.

Mr Kenyatta was yesterday leading the presidential race with 55 per cent of the vote, according to the provisional results that the opposition Nasa said were compromised while Mr Odinga had 44 per cent of the vote — a margin of about 1.4 million.

Mr Odinga, who held a televised morning press briefing, claimed the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) data base had been hacked, bringing to question the credibility of the results.

“Hackers gained power to add or delete anything on the IEBC database...We are telling our people not to accept results, stay calm as we get deep into this,” Mr Odinga said, intensifying tension across the country.

Shortly thereafter, dozens of Mr Odinga’s supporters demonstrated in the streets of the lakeside city of Kisumu, his stronghold, but were contained by police.

The IEBC swiftly responded to the claims that its database had been hacked on Election Day, affecting results, across the six elective seats.

“As a commission we shall come up with a methodology to verify the allegations made on hacking,” IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said.

“We are not worried about computer system password management.”

The agency also said it had received 28,000 Form 34As as at 9 a.m. yesterday, adding that in case of any discrepancies between hard copy and electronic results, hard copy results signed by party agents would prevail.

Form 34A proof

Nasa alleged that the IEBC had failed to offer proof of the electronic results in Form 34As.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission added its voice to the chorus, saying it had discovered discrepancies in an initial comparison between provisional results announced by the electoral commission and paper forms signed at polling stations by party agents.

It cited five examples, including a polling station in Nandi County where the electoral agency’s website recorded 439 rejected votes but the paper form only had four.

Mr Odinga, 72, is making his fourth consecutive stab at the Presidency, which is seen as his last attempt in a long-running duel between his family and the Kenyattas.

Mr Kenyatta, 55, is running for his second and final five-year term. Mr Odinga claimed on Twitter that his party Nasa’s assessment indicated he had 8.1 million votes by yesterday morning, with President Kenyatta trailing with 7.2 million.

Global sentiments were, however, warmer. Global credit rating agency, S&P, said that Kenya’s B+ credit rating and stable outlook won’t be affected by the election.

“As we are seeing now, it (election) has gone fairly smoothly so it is an issue of contestation with the result,” S&P’s Kenya sovereign analyst Gardner Rusike told Reuters yesterday.

“We don’t expect there will be a repeat of 2007, and if we do see contestations they will be less and more managed than 2007.”