Kenya votes amidst violence

In opposition stongholds, voting booths were closed and police were blocked from entering while elsewhere, Kenyans lined up peacefully to cast their ballot, again.

27 October 2017 | Africa

At least three people were shot dead Thursday as opposition protests sparked violence during Kenya's presidential re-run, according to police and hospital sources.

One man died after being shot in the forehead in Nairobi's Mathare slum, Drugnet hospital director Dickens Osimb told AFP, while a second death was confirmed in Homa Bay in western Kenya, a police statement said. Earlier, police and hospital sources confirmed a 19-year-old had been shot dead in Kisumu, also in the west.

A divided Kenya voted yesterday in a bitterly disputed presidential re-run that has sparked fears both at home and abroad for the stability of the east African powerhouse. This follows after not enough judges could be secured to hear an application to postpone the elections on Wednesday afternoon.

The head judge of Kenya's Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga appeared alone at the Supreme Court and said only he and one other judge were able to attend the hearing on the petition. The driver for the court's deputy chief justice was shot and wounded Tuesday evening, raising fears about intimidation of the judiciary.

Leaders have urged for calm and called for peace and former president Daniel Moi also urged for peace on Thursday after voting at Kabarak University polling station in Rongai sub-county.

Moi said peace is a must as the members of the public exercise their democratic right.

"I urge Kenyans to be peaceful in order to prosper as a country," he said. "Peace is paramount for any development to take place."

Yesterday afternoon, voting officials said there had been some violence but most of the country was been peaceful during the election, although there was lower turnout than in the August vote that was nullified by the Supreme Court.

Not a single ballot box was delivered to the 190 polling stations in central Kisumu, a major city and opposition stronghold that has seen violent protests against the country's presidential election. Kisumu, in western Kenya, is the country's third largest city.

John Ngutai Muyekho, a senior election official, on Thursday sat with the uncollected ballot boxes in a high school that was guarded by about 30 members of the security forces.

"If anyone comes to collect, I'm ready. But so far, no one has," Muyekho said.

Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga are boycotting the election, saying it is not credible. Many polling stations in opposition areas have not opened because of security concerns.

Around midday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has voted in his hometown of Gatundu, saying that 90% of the country was calm and that he will work to unify the country if he is re-elected.

Kenyatta on Thursday said outside a polling station that Kenya must remove ethnic loyalties from its politics in order to succeed.

"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," Kenyatta said. "We cannot achieve our goals if we continue to embark on tribalistic politics."

Many observers say Kenya's ethnic-based politics overshadow the promise of its democracy. Kenyatta is from the Kikuyu group, while opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is boycotting Thursday's election, is a Luo.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga earlier had said the opposition will press for what it deems credible elections after boycotting Thursday's repeat presidential election because of what it says is a lack of adequate reforms to the electoral commission.

Odinga's challenge to the August elections, which were won by President Uhuru Kenyatta, led the Supreme Court to annul those results, citing illegalities, and order a repeat election.

A statement from Odinga Thursday says his movement will constitute a "People's Assembly to guide the country to a fresh free and fair presidential election" as part of its peaceful resistance.

Odinga said the resistance will also include boycotting goods and services by those who have supported Kenyatta's "lawless grab of the presidency."

Kenyan police earlier in the morning had fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters in some opposition areas after the start of Kenya's second presidential election, reflecting bitter divisions in the country.

Early morning violence erupted in Nairobi's Kibera slum and Kisumu, a major city in western Kenya where protesters set fires and blocked roads, and many polling stations didn't open because of security concerns. One Kisumu primary school that saw huge lines of voters when it served as a polling station in Kenya's August election was closed, its gates locked.

Voters lined up before dawn at a polling station in Kenyatta's hometown of Gatundu and electoral workers prepared ballot papers by flashlight after heavy rains knocked out power to the site.


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