The United States embassy in Kenya has warned its citizens of possible unrest this weekend when the Supreme Court is due to rule on a legal challenge to the outcome of the presidential election by losing candidate Raila Odinga.
Odinga alleged “rampant illegality” in the first-round victory this month of rival Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding president, who has said the voting was “free and fair.”
Reuters says the case is a fresh test of Kenyan democracy five years after a disputed vote ignited deadly tribal violence. American citizens number in the thousands in Kenya and form part of a large expatriate community in a country that is a hub for trade, multinational firms and the regional headquarters for United Nations agencies and other humanitarian organisations.
Analysts say a swift, transparent resolution of the petition will be critical to restoring Kenya’s reputation as a stable democracy, following post-election violence in early 2008 that cost more than 1,200 lives in east Africa’s biggest economy.
The six Supreme Court judges are widely expected to deliver a ruling by Saturday in line with a strict legal deadline. The U.S. embassy warned its citizens to stay clear of any demonstrations, even if they appear peaceful.
“There could be a strong public reaction to the announcement; therefore, the U.S. Embassy strongly urges all U.S. citizens to avoid gatherings, demonstrations, downtown business areas, slums, and large crowds of any kind,” the statement posted on the embassy website said. The Supreme Court’s verdict on the case is final, and both Odinga and Kenyatta have said they will abide by its decision.
It remains to be seen how their supporters will react.