Kenya polls: Kenyatta takes early lead

2013-03-05 07:55
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

Kenya elections

Kenyan polling stations opened up for a tense presidential election race. See all the latest pictures.

Nairobi  - Uhuru Kenyatta opened an early lead as Kenya continued the count on Tuesday in a presidential election that brought out millions of voters despite pockets of violence that killed at least 15 people.

Kenyans, who waited patiently in long lines, hope the vote will restore the nation's image as one of Africa's more stable democracies after tribal blood-letting killed more than 1 200 people when the result of the 2007 vote was disputed by rivals.

Early tallies from Monday's broadly peaceful voting gave an edge to Kenyatta, the 51-year-old deputy prime minister, over rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga, 68.

That lead could still be overhauled because it was based on a count from just over 20% of polling stations, provisional figures from the election commission indicated. Final results are likely to be announced later on Tuesday.

Election officials had said turnout was more than 70% of the 14.3 million eligible voters but have not given a precise total.

The United States and Western donors have watched the vote closely, concerned about the stability of a nation seen as a regional ally in the fight against militant Islam. They also worry about what to do if Kenyatta wins, because he faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) related to the violence five years ago.

For an outright victory, a candidate needs more than 50% of votes cast, otherwise the top two face a run-off, provisionally set for April.

Odinga may be facing his last crack at the presidency after narrowly missing out in 2007 to now-outgoing President Mwai Kibaki. Losing to Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president after independence, would mark another defeat in the family's ambitions after Odinga's father also failed to secure the top post.

Odinga and Kenyatta ran neck-and-neck in polls before the 2013 race, well ahead of six other rivals.

'People want peace'

"If elected, we will be able to discharge our duties," Kenyatta's running mate, William Ruto, who also faces charges of crimes against humanity, said during voting. "We shall co-operate with the court with a final intention of clearing our names."

At a news briefing after most polls had closed, Ruto said the vote had been "free, fair and credible", and welcomed the early lead by Kenyatta.

The party of Odinga, who had raised questions about preparations for the vote before Monday but still said he would win, issued comments suggesting they might challenge the result.

Citing late voting at one polling station hours after the official close, voters casting more than one ballot in some areas and a failure of the electronic voter registration system in places, Frank Bett, a senior official in Odinga's CORD alliance, said: "These we find to be placing in jeopardy the credibility of this process."

The election commission earlier acknowledged a polling clerk had been caught issuing extra ballots and said manual voter lists were used where the electronic registration system failed.

Kenyans queued from the early hours of the morning to cast their ballots and many said memories of the post-2007 bloodshed and its dire impact on the economy were enough to prevent a repeat this time.

"People want peace after what happened last time," said Henry Owino, 29, a second-hand clothes seller who was voting in Nairobi's Kibera slum where violence flared five years ago. "This time the people have decided they don't want to fight."

The real test will come when final results emerge. At least 15 people were killed in attacks by machete-wielding gangs on the restive coast shortly before voting started.

Senior police officers blamed the attacks on a separatist movement, suggesting different motives to the ethnic killings that followed the 2007 vote.

The European Union observer mission said turnout was high even at the coast where the attacks took place.

Nervous African neighbours

A suspected grenade attack struck near an election centre in the eastern town of Garissa close to the border with Somalia, where Kenyan troops have been deployed to fight Islamist militants. That attack 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.

One of the coastal attacks on Monday took place on the outskirts of Mombasa and another in Kilifi, about 50km to the north. Police blamed a separatist movement, the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), which wanted the national vote scrapped and a referendum on secession instead.

At the Kilifi site, a piece of paper lay on the ground with the words: "MRC. Coast is not Kenya. We don't want elections. We want our own country.

But the group's spokesman denied responsibility and said it only sought change by peaceful means.

Kenya's neighbors have been watching nervously, after their economies suffered five years ago when violence shut down regional trade routes.

To try to prevent a repeat of the contested outcome that sparked the violence after the December 2007 vote, a new, broadly respected election commission is using more technology to prevent fraud, speed up counting and increase transparency.

Alongside the presidential race, there were elections for senators, county governors, members of parliament, women representatives in county assemblies and civic leaders.

Read more on:    international criminal court  |  mwai kibaki  |  uhuru kenyatta  |  william ruto  |  raila odinga  |  kenya  |  us  |  kenya elections 2013  |  east africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
5 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.