Nairobi(ANN) Uhuru Kenyatta, one of the leading candidates to become Kenya’s next president, has accused Britain of “shadowy and suspicious” meddling in the country’s election by campaigning to deny him victory.
Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee Alliance said Christian Turner, Britain’s High Commissioner in Nairobi, should also explain what it called “abnormal” numbers of British soldiers who arrived in Kenya before Monday’s polls.
A fresh manual tally of votes began on Wednesday after an expensive new electronic system failed, forcing the electoral commission to abandon its existing count of more than five million votes.
Legal challenges are now likely because of the large number of rejected ballots, which may come close to 10 per cent of the estimated 10 million votes cast and make a difference to the outcome.
Technical arguments on whether they should be included in final tallies is consuming the increasingly chaotic count process.
“The Jubilee Alliance is deeply concerned about the shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement of the British High Commissioner in Kenya’s election,” said Charity Ngilu, joint leader of Mr Kenyatta’s coalition.
The British High Commissioner [has] been canvassing to have rejected votes tallied in an attempt to deny the Jubilee Coalition outright victory.”
Mr Turner, a Foreign Office high-flier who is close to William Hague and who arrived in Kenya a year ago, immediately rejected the accusations.
“Claims of British interference, including by the High Commission, in the electoral process are entirely false and misleading,” a Foreign Office spokesman later said.
“The UK does not have a position on the question of how to handle the rejected votes. That is for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, and if necessary Kenyan courts, to determine.
“We urge all sides to ensure calm, avoid inflammatory statements, and to take any disputes to the courts.”
Mrs Ngilu, who lost her parliamentary contest in the elections, demanded that Mr Turner explain what she called the “alarming” and “abnormally high influx of British military personnel in the country, which began around voting day”.
More than 10,000 British troops pass through northern Kenya to complete their training before deployment.
Two battle groups are currently crossing-over in the country as one completes its exercises and the second arrives to begin them.
The soldiers were currently in Kenya as part of the regular training programme, agreed with the Kenyan defence ministry, the Foreign Office spokesman added.
“This routine exercise is completely unrelated to the Kenyan elections, and was planned nine months ago.”
Kenya was under intense international scrutiny for these polls, following an allegedly rigged ballot in 2007 that sparked six weeks of violence, resulting in 1,100 deaths, after Mr Kibaki, an ally of Mr Kenyatta, was sworn in.
“We are calm, we are waiting for the results, we still trust in the electoral commission to finish this thing fairly,” said George Ondu, a community activist in Kisumu, a city in Kenya’s west that is a stronghold for Mr Odinga.
The electoral commission expects results by Friday.