Three killed in violence at Kenya’s presidential election rerun

Opposition supporters clash with police as president Uhuru Kenyatta seeks second term

People gesture near tyres set on fire during a protest against a presidential election re-run in  Mombasa. Photograph:  Joseph Okanga/Reuters

People gesture near tyres set on fire during a protest against a presidential election re-run in Mombasa. Photograph: Joseph Okanga/Reuters

 

Opposition supporters boycotted Thursday’s rerun of Kenya’s disputed presidential election, clashing with police in some parts of the country and forcing authorities to postpone voting in areas affected by the violence. At least three people were killed as police reported clashes in five of Kenya’s 47 counties.

While most of Kenya was peaceful, voter turnout was relatively low even in some regions considered to be strongholds for president Uhuru Kenyatta, who was declared the winner of an August 8th election that later was nullified by the Supreme Court.

Most polling stations closed as scheduled at 5pm and vote-counting began, although election officials said sites that opened late because of what they called “logistical challenges” could stay open later. Polling stations in some areas supporting opposition leader Raila Odinga did not open at all because of sporadic unrest in which police fired bullets and tear gas at stone-throwing protesters who heeded his call for a boycott and maintained the election was not credible.

Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta casts his vote during the presidential election re-run in Gatundu. Photograph: Siegfried Modola/Reuters
Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta casts his vote during the presidential election re-run in Gatundu. Photograph: Siegfried Modola/Reuters

Late on Thursday, police said they were investigating information that “some individuals” planned to attack convoys of vehicles carrying ballots to counting centres in some counties. Three people were killed in protests, a police source said: one in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu County, another in Homa Bay in the west, and a third in the town of Athi River outside the capital of Nairobi.

Blocked roads

Voting in four counties, including the opposition stronghold of Kisumu, will be held on Saturday, said Wafula Chebukati, chairman of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. Protesters set fires and blocked roads in Kisumu, where 25 people were injured in clashes with police, said Aloyce Kidiwa, a county medical officer. The injuries included many gunshot wounds. No ballot boxes were delivered to central Kisumu’s 190 polling stations, said a senior election official, John Ngutai Muyekho.

An opposition supporter gestures with a knife during clashes with police in Kibera slum in Nairobi on Thursday. Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters
An opposition supporter gestures with a knife during clashes with police in Kibera slum in Nairobi. Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

Violence also erupted in Nairobi’s Kibera and Mathare slums. In Mathare, an Associated Press photographer saw protesters stopping people to check their fingers for the telltale ink stains that proved they voted; in one case, they harassed a woman until police scattered them with tear gas. The Supreme Court nullified the August election because it found what it called illegalities and irregularities in the vote, a decision that was sharply criticised by Mr Kenyatta, who is seeking a second term. He voted again in his home town of Gatundu, saying he will work to unify the country if he is re-elected.

‘Tribalism’

“What we have is a problem of tribalism, and tribalism is an issue that we must continue to deal with and fight with as we continue to develop our country,” he said.

Kenyans queue to vote just after dawn in president Uhuru Kenyatta’s hometown of Gatundu, Kenya. Photograph: Ben Curtis/PA
Kenyans queue to vote just after dawn in president Uhuru Kenyatta’s hometown of Gatundu, Kenya. Photograph: Ben Curtis/PA

Many observers say Kenya’s ethnic-based politics overshadow the promise of its democracy. Mr Kenyatta, who got 54 per cent of the vote in August, is from the Kikuyu group, while Mr Odinga, who got nearly 45 per cent and boycotted the repeat vote, is a Luo. Mr Odinga said the new election will not be credible due to a lack of electoral reform. He accused Mr Kenyatta of moving a country known for relative stability and openness towards authoritarian rule. The pair also faced off in a 2013 election similarly marred by opposition allegations of vote-rigging. The opposition leader also ran unsuccessfully in 2007, and ethnic-fuelled animosity after that vote killed more than 1,000 people and forced 600,000 from their homes.

– (AP)