Kenyan Election Official Says Hacking Attempt Failed

Supporters of Kenyan opposition leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga demonstrate in the Kibera area blocking roads with burning tires in Nairobi, Kenya. Wednesday Aug. 9, 2017. Kenyan police opened fire Wednesday to disperse rioters in several areas after presidential challenger Raila Odinga alleged election fraud, saying hackers. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The database of Kenya’s election commission was unsuccessfully targeted by a hacking attempt, a top official said Thursday, disputing allegations by opposition leader Raila Odinga that hackers were able to infiltrate the computer system and manipulate results against him following Tuesday’s vote.

The comments by Wafula Chebukati, the commission chairman, came as Kenyans tensely awaited the final tally of an election pitting Odinga against President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is shown with a wide lead in provisional results that election officials are painstakingly trying to confirm with checks of documents from polling stations nationwide.

While most of this East African country of more than 40 million people was calm, clashes between police and protesters erupted in a Nairobi slum on Thursday. Police fired on rioters in Kawangware, a poor area of the capital, said an Associated Press photographer. One injured man was carried away by protesters who said police shot him.

On Wednesday, at least three people were shot and killed in confrontations between security forces and opposition supporters in several areas of Kenya, East Africa’s commercial hub whose stability is a key concern for the region.

“Hacking was attempted but did not succeed,” Chebukati said at a news conference. He said “all the presidential results will reach the national tallying center” by noon Friday, indicating that a final announcement on the winner could take at least another day. The election commission has a week from the vote to release the final tally.

International observers said they have not noted any signs of interference with the vote and appealed to Kenyans to be patient.

“We affirm the conviction that the judicial process, the judicial system of Kenya, and the election laws themselves make full and adequate provision for accountability in this election. The streets do not,” said former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, an election observer for The Carter Center.

“Elections should never be an issue of life or death,” said Marietje Schaake, the Dutch head of the European Union mission observing the elections. Odinga’s hacking allegations “should be seriously looked at” as part of the process of verifying the final tallies, she said hours before the chairman of the election commission said a hacking attempt had failed.

John Mahama, chief election observer for the Commonwealth and former president of Ghana, said election observers don’t have the capacity to investigate the hacking allegations, and noted that Kenya’s voting and counting system appeared “credible, transparent and inclusive.”

The election commission has defended its electronic voting system as secure.

Provisional results showed Kenyatta, whose father was Kenya’s first president after independence from British colonial rule, holding a strong lead with votes from 98 percent of polling stations counted.

Angry crowds jeered at police patrolling in Kawangware, an opposition stronghold.

“People are demonstrating because of their rights,” said Edwin Onyango, a supporter of the 72-year-old Odinga, a former prime minister who has run unsuccessfully for president on three previous occasions.

Odinga was a candidate in 2007 elections that were followed by violence, fueled by ethnic tensions, that killed more than 1,000 people. He also lost the 2013 vote to the 55-year-old Kenyatta and took allegations of vote-tampering to the Supreme Court, which rejected his case.

Some residents of Nairobi said the longtime opposition figure should acknowledge another lost political campaign.

“He has done a lot for this country,” said James Maina Bajirane. “And at this particular time, at his age, he should concede defeat and the country goes on.”

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