At least 15 killed in machete attacks as Kenyans vote in presidential election
At least 15 people were killed in attacks by machete-wielding gangs yesterday as Kenyans voted in large numbers in the first presidential election since a disputed 2007 poll unleashed weeks of tribal bloodshed.
Initial provisional results began trickling in moments after polls closed, showing Kenyan deputy prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta slightly ahead of prime minister Raila Odinga, with ballots in from 10 per cent of the polling stations, but it was still too early to predict the outcome.
Voting in the tight contest passed off largely peacefully across most of the east African nation, although many of its 14.3 million voters were caught in long queues. The electoral authority said early indications showed turnout at above 70 per cent.
Officials and candidates have made appeals to avoid a repeat of the rampages that erupted five years ago when disputes over the result fuelled clashes between tribal loyalists of rival candidates. More than 1,200 people were killed, shattering Kenya’s reputation as one of Africa’s most stable democracies and bringing its economy, sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth-largest, to a standstill.
Security officers killed
Just hours before voting began, at least nine security officers in the restive coastal region were hacked to death in two attacks, and six attackers were killed, regional police chief Aggrey Adoli said. Senior police officers blamed the attacks on a separatist movement, suggesting different motives to those that caused the post-2007 election ethnic killings that could limit their impact.
A suspected grenade attack yesterday at an election centre in the eastern town of Garissa near the Somali border caused panic among voters but no injuries, a government official said.
Two civilians were shot dead in Garissa on Sunday, while a bomb blast in the Mandera area near the border wounded four.
As in 2007, the race has come down to a high-stakes duel between two candidates, this time between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, the loser in 2007 to outgoing president Mwai Kibaki. Both contenders will depend heavily on votes from their tribes.
Concerns over Kenyatta
The US and western donors are worried about the stability of a nation that is an ally in the fight against militant Islam in the region. They are also concerned about how to respond to a victory for Mr Kenyatta, who faces International Criminal Court charges of orchestrating violence five years ago.
“If elected, we will be able to discharge our duties,” said his running mate, William Ruto, who also faces charges of crimes against humanity. “We shall co-operate with the court with a final intention of clearing our names.” – (Reuters)