Rerun of Kenyan presidential vote marred by deadly clashes
By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA and TOM ODULA, Associated Press
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Opposition supporters boycotted Thursday’s rerun of Kenya’s disputed presidential election, clashing with police in some parts of the East African country and forcing authorities to postpone voting in areas affected by the violence. At least three people were killed.
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 Aug. 8 election that later was nullified by the Supreme Court.
Most polling stations closed as scheduled at 5 p.m. 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 didn’t 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.
Late Thursday, police said they were investigating information that “some individuals” planned to attack convoys of vehicles carrying ballots to counting centers 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. The police source spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
Police reported violence in five of Kenya’s 47 counties. Voting in four counties, including the opposition stronghold of Kisumu, will be held 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, Kidiwa said.
Not a single ballot box was delivered to central Kisumu’s 190 polling stations, said a senior election official, John Ngutai Muyekho. He sat with the uncollected boxes in a school guarded by security forces.
“If anyone comes to collect, I’m ready. But so far no one has,” Muyekho said.
One Kisumu school that saw huge lines of voters on Aug. 8 was closed, its gates locked.
“We are not going to vote and we are not going to allow it,” said Olga Onyanga, an Odinga supporter.
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 criticized by Kenyatta, who is seeking a second term. He voted again in his hometown of Gatundu, saying he will work to unify the country if he is re-elected.
“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.
Many observers say Kenya’s ethnic-based politics overshadow the promise of its democracy. Kenyatta, who got 54 percent of the vote in August, is from the Kikuyu group; Odinga, who got nearly 45 percent in the earlier election and boycotted the repeat vote, is a Luo.
Odinga said the new election won’t be credible due to a lack of electoral reform. He accused Kenyatta of moving a country known for relative stability and openness toward authoritarian rule.
Odinga and Kenyatta 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-fueled animosity after that vote killed more than 1,000 people and forced 600,000 from their homes.
Associated Press journalists Ben Curtis in Nairobi, Andrew Drake in Kisumu and Joe Mwihia in Gatundu contributed.