Violence mars Kenya poll

2013-03-04 09:26

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Nairobi/Mombasa – Kenyans stood patiently in long lines today to elect a new president but machete-wielding youths on the coast killed four police officers, casting a shadow over a vote seen as vital to repairing Kenya’s image after tribal bloodshed five years ago.

A few hours before the start of voting at 6am, and with long queues formed across the nation before sunrise, four police officers on patrol in the Mombasa port city area were hacked to death by attackers, a senior police officer said.

Officials and candidates have made impassioned appeals to avoid a repeat of the tribal rampages that erupted following the disputed result of the 2007/08 election. More than 1 200 people were killed, shattering Kenya’s reputation as one of Africa’s most stable democracies and bringing its economy to a standstill.

But as in those elections, the race has come down to a high-stakes, head-to-head between two candidates, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

Once again both will depend heavily on votes from loyalists from their tribes.

Ambrose Munyasia, the chief of police intelligence in the Coast region, said he suspected the gang behind Mombasa attack were linked to a separatist movement, the Mombasa Republican Council, which had in past weeks sought and failed to have the national vote scrapped and a referendum on secession instead.

If so, it would suggest entirely different motives that sparked the previous vote rampage, when disputes over the result fuelled clashes between tribal loyalists of rival candidates. That could limit the impact of today’s attack.

Bernard Otundo (36) with others quietly queuing in Nairobi in early morning darkness, said he expected a peaceful vote.

“Some of us have been here as early as 2am this morning. I got here slightly after 3am,” he said. “There has been a lot of awareness campaigns against violence and I don’t think it will happen this time around, whatever the outcome.”

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