Kenyatta sees early Uhuru in peaceful Kenya election

Jubilee presidential aspirant Uhuru Kenyatta was, by press time last night, in a clear lead in the Kenya race. Kenyatta was  posting 56 per cent of total vote tallied (12 per cent), with his nearest rival, Raila Odinga of CORD trailing with 39 per cent, while the rest of the candidates in the race were as good as beaten.
A photo that was trending on social media yesterday shows military officers patrol streets in Nairobi on squad bikes. The Kenyan government said it would leave nothing to chance to ens....
A photo that was trending on social media yesterday shows military officers patrol streets in Nairobi on squad bikes. The Kenyan government said it would leave nothing to chance to ens....

Jubilee presidential aspirant Uhuru Kenyatta was, by press time last night, in a clear lead in the Kenya race. Kenyatta was  posting 56 per cent of total vote tallied (12 per cent), with his nearest rival, Raila Odinga of CORD trailing with 39 per cent, while the rest of the candidates in the race were as good as beaten.

Long lines of Kenyans queued from long before dawn to vote yesterday in the first election since violence-wracked polls five years ago, with a deadly police ambush marring the key ballot. The tense elections—and the all-important reception of the results—are seen as a crucial test for Kenya, with leaders vowing to avoid a repeat of the bloody 2007-2008 post-poll violence in which more than 1,100 people were killed.

Observers have repeatedly warned of the risk of renewed conflict, but the conduct of voting itself passed off peacefully with no major reported violent incidents.

Voters standing for hours in snaking lines several hundred metres long—and several people crowded peacefully outside polling stations to take part in one of the most complex elections Kenya has ever held. Tensions were high on the coast, including in the port city of Mombasa, where six policemen were killed in two separate attacks, including an ambush by some 200 youth armed with guns, bows and arrows, hours before the opening of polling stations.

People began lining up from as early as 4am to cast their votes, two hours ahead of the official opening of the polls. Polls officially closed at 5pm, although centres whose opening had been delayed—some for several hours—were to stay open to make up for the time missed.

In middle-class areas of Nairobi, cars parked in the early morning blocked the streets around polling stations for much of the day, with progress slow in some centres due to delays caused by malfunctioning electronic registration equipment.

Ahmed Issack Hassan, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman, said there had been ‘challenges’ faced in various parts of the country, but that any failure of electronic systems meant only that checking identification had to be done manually.

Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo said the Mombasa attackers were suspected members of the secessionist Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), and that 400 officers were sent to beef up security in the popular tourist region.

Police have blamed the MRC for a string of attacks last year, and the group had threatened to boycott the polls. Despite the attack, voters packed the streets in the city.

Raphael Zuma, a voter in Mombasa, said he had waited eight hours to vote in the steamy heat, but happily held up his ink stained finger after finally casting a ballot.

“I had to do it because I wanted to elect new leaders,” he said.

Polls held peacefully

Neck-and-neck rivals for the presidency, Odinga and Kenyatta, have publicly vowed there will be no repeat of the bloodshed that followed the disputed 2007 polls.

Crimes against humanity trials later this year at The Hague-based ICC for Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto have raised the stakes: should they win the vote, the president and vice-president could be absent on trial for years.

Kenyatta, voting in his hometown of Gatundu some 90 kilometres north of Nairobi, said he was “ready and prepared for whatever outcome” Kenyans chose.

Kenyans cast six ballots, voting for a new president, parliamentarians, governors, senators, councillors and special women's representatives, with some 14.3 million registered voters and more than 30,000 polling stations.

Preliminary results were expected within 48 hours, but could take up to seven days, officials have said. Results will be tallied in the polling stations which will send them by encrypted text messages to a central counting centre in Nairobi.

At least 100,000 police were deployed to the streets, and about 23,000 observers, including 2,600 international monitors.

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