NAIROBI, Kenya -- The leaders of Kenya's long-splintered opposition yesterday rejected as fraudulent this week's presidential election and said they would forge a common front to force a new vote.
Ordinary Kenyans will rise up if the results are allowed to stand, they warned.
"If we do not do this, the people of Kenya will be in the streets," said one of the leaders, Nairobi businessman Kenneth Matiba. "We want the
people to know we are taking all necessary measures to ensure we will have a fair election."
The three leaders had been unable to unite during the long campaign -- one of the reasons Kenya's longtime strongman, Daniel arap Moi, held an insurmountable lead yesterday in the vote count for the country's first multiparty elections in more than a quarter-century.
With 86 percent of the constituencies reporting, President Moi had 1.8 million votes to 1.2 million for Mr. Matiba, his nearest challenger. The other two major candidates, former Vice Presidents Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Mwai Kibaki, had less than 1 million votes each.
Now, the three said, they are united in a demand that Mr. Moi declare Tuesday's election invalid because of massive vote rigging, corruption and strong-arm tactics aimed at keeping the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) in power.
Mr. Moi rejected the demand.
"In the name of our respective parties, for the sake of Kenya, for the sake of all of us, we must put the feelings of the past few months behind us," he said in a statement.
It remained unclear how the three challengers expected to force Mr. Moi to call a new election, and what they would do if he persisted in refusing.
"We, the leaders of the opposition, protest the massive rigging of the entire elections and reject the results," they said in a strong but vaguely worded statement in which they vowed to put personal or political differences aside for the moment.
"The opposition parties will work together to initiate the necessary framework and modalities to prevent Daniel arap Moi from assuming office as a result of those fraudulent elections," they said.
They would not say whether this meant they would unite behind a single candidate.
"You have to wait for the time being, because we are working on a joint program," Mr. Kibaki said.
The men did call on their supporters to remain calm. "We are at the beginning of perhaps a long period of activities that are being forced on us by Moi," Mr. Matiba said.
Kenya, long one of the most prosperous and stable of African states, has fallen on increasingly hard times during Mr. Moi's 14-year, single-party rule, plagued by a sagging economy, a crumbling infrastructure, tribal violence, and increasingly loud charges of corruption and incompetence.
Though Mr. Moi resisted the move toward multiparty democracy that has swept Africa since 1990, he was finally forced by internal and international pressure late last year to legalize opposition parties and promise a multiparty vote.
Almost immediately the opposition began to splinter. The dominant Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) split into Mr. Matiba's FORD-Asili and Mr. Odinga's FORD-Kenya, while Mr. Kibaki resigned from Mr. Moi's cabinet and formed the Democratic Party.
Opposition leaders and international observers complained that the state-controlled media refused access to Mr. Moi's opponents, that rallies were outlawed or broken up and that opposition candidates were either harassed or bought off.
By Tuesday, election day, many officials were wondering whether the campaign had offered a fair chance to Mr. Moi's opponents, and there were dire warnings of violence. But both the vote and the subsequent, drawn-out counting period passed with only a few scattered incidents of bloodshed.