NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan authorities will arrest and charge the sister of opposition leader Raila Odinga with incitement to violence after attacks on the election board, the chief prosecutor’s office said on Monday.
Odinga has pulled out of the re-run of an election he was due to contest on Thursday against President Uhuru Kenyatta, saying problems with the election board meant the vote would not be fair. He has called for protests and a boycott and on Sunday said on Twitter there would be “no election”.
“We resume our picketing at IEBC (election board) offices countrywide on Tuesday and Wednesday. We maintain that there will be no election on Thursday,” he said, without giving details.
Kenya is East Africa’s richest economy and a trade and transport gateway as well as a hub for diplomacy and security, so its stability is considered vital for the region.
Odinga’s supporters disrupted a training session for election officials last week in the western city of Kisumu, which is his political stronghold. They attacked election staff and destroyed tents and polling material, witnesses said.
Ruth Odinga, who is the opposition leader’s sister and a former deputy governor of Kisumu county, was present at the protest, according to Reuters witnesses. Prosecutors instructed police to arrest her, opposition Senator Fred Outa and others.
She will be charged with incitement, destruction of property, obstructing election officers and trespassing in an electoral centre, according to a letter that the director of public prosecution’s office posted online.
“The suspects should immediately be charged,” the letter said. Neither Ruth Odinga nor Outa could immediately be contacted for comment.
The arrests could anger Odinga’s supporters and escalate tension over an election season that has divided the country and led to the deaths of at least 37 people since the first election was held on Aug. 8 including four in the last two weeks.
Odinga says the election board had made insufficient reforms to prevent a repeat of the same mistakes that marred the previous presidential polls on Aug. 8.
Kenyatta won that election but the Supreme Court last nullified the result, saying there had been procedural irregularities and a repeat must be held.
The election board and Kenyatta say the poll will be held regardless of whether Odinga participates.