Kenya counts votes, and the cost of a violence-hit election

2017-10-27 10:29
File: AFP

File: AFP

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Nairobi - As polling officials tallied votes, Kenyans counted the cost on Friday of a deeply-divisive election marred by an opposition boycott and protests that left at least four dead and scores wounded.

The country's second presidential election in three months descended into chaos on Thursday as supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga attempted to block voting, clashing with police who fired tear gas, water cannon and live bullets.

The vote came after a two-month political drama that began when the Supreme Court overturned the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in August 8 elections due to "irregularities".

Although the ruling was initially hailed as a chance to deepen democracy in one of east Africa's most stable nations, its impact quickly soured, unleashing weeks of angry protests, acrimonious political rhetoric and intimidation of election officials.

And Odinga's boycott of the re-run, on grounds the election commission had failed to make the necessary changes to ensure a free and fair vote, has assured Kenyatta a landslide victory.

Serious question of legitimacy 

But as votes continued to be tallied on Friday difficult questions remained over the credibility of an election boycotted by a large part of the 19 million registered voters.

Estimated figures compiled by the election board after polling shut pointed to a turnout of 48%, said election chief Wafula Chebukati.

Kenya's leading Daily Nation newspaper said the low turnout would mean "a serious question of legitimacy for the winner".

It would be a huge fall from the nearly 80% rate in the August poll and proof the opposition boycott had held. That first disputed election was won by Kenyatta but overturned in an unprecedented court ruling that has sparked weeks of protest and acrimonious debate.

While the August election saw long queues of voters and ballots being cast long after closing time in some places, Thursday's vote was a different story with many polling stations empty or welcoming only a trickle of people.

'Security related' challenges

On Friday morning Chebukati said the central tally centre in Nairobi had received results sheets from 90% of polling stations nationwide.

However, he had been forced to postpone the election until Saturday in four protest-hit counties in the country's west where Odinga enjoys overwhelming support.

The move, he said, was due to "security-related" challenges.

But the governor of Kisumu, an opposition stronghold in western Kenya where violence raged on Thursday, rejected the move, saying people would not vote while they were "mourning".

He said he had invited Odinga and top leaders of his National Super Alliance coalition (NASA) to visit the city on Friday.

At least four people were shot dead and around 50 others wounded, most of them by live bullets, during Thursday vote, according to an AFP tally of figures from officials and medics.

One of the dead was a 19 year-old who died from blood loss after being shot in the thigh during clashes in Kisumu, police and hospital sources said.

More fractured and unstable 

A second person died from a gunshot wound to the leg in Kisumu, police said, after a polling centre was "stormed" by a mob.

Police said another man was shot dead in Homa Bay, also in the west, "where a large mob attacked a small police facility" prompting officers to open fire "to protect themselves".

And a fourth man was shot dead in Nairobi's Mathare slum, another hotspot in the capital where police fired water cannon and teargas to disperse demonstrators.

The confirmed casualties raised to 44 the tally of people killed in election-related violence since the August poll.

The crisis is the worst since a 2007 election sparked politically-driven ethnic violence that left 1 100 dead.

In its post-election editorial the Daily Nation warned Kenya is now "more fractured and unstable than ever before" but added, "Ours is a political problem that requires a political solution".

"There is a need to forge inclusivity."

Read more on:    uhuru kenyatta  |  raila odinga  |  kenya  |  kenya 2017 elections  |  east africa

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