Polling labelled ‘joke’ as protestors killed in Kenya election

Friends of Maseno Universitys student Titus Okul, killed during a protest, outside the morgue in Kisumu after the deeply-divisive election re-run led to several deaths. Picture: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images
Friends of Maseno Universitys student Titus Okul, killed during a protest, outside the morgue in Kisumu after the deeply-divisive election re-run led to several deaths. Picture: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images
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Kenya’s opposition yesterday appealed to election officials not to conduct voting in four restive counties, saying it will only lead to more bloodshed after at least five people died in clashes between police and protesters.

Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted Thursday’s repeat presidential election and disrupted efforts to open polling stations in some areas, compelling Kenya’s election commission to delay voting in several western regions where anti-government sentiment is strong.

However, the governor of one county, Kisumu, described the plan to open the polls today as a “joke.”

Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o said he feared security forces would open fire on opposition protesters if there was an attempt to open polling stations today.

He said if the election commission chief “wants to hold the election here, he is just going to cause more deaths,”.

Church leaders and lawyers in Kisumu city also criticised the plan. A senior opposition official, Musalia Mudavadi, urged people in the four counties to again stay home.

Clashes between police and opposition supporters continued yesterday.

One man was shot dead in Bungoma County, raising the death toll since Thursday’s vote to at least five. A 12-year-old boy and three other people were shot and wounded in Migori County, according to police.

Thursday’s election had a sharply lower turnout because of the opposition boycott. The election commission said about 6.5 million people, or one-third of registered voters, went to the polls. Nearly 80 percent of registered voters participated in the August election that was later nullified by the Supreme Court due to irregularities. The election commission asked Kenyans to be calm and patient while it counted and verified results from the new vote. Commission chief Wafula Chebukati said he understands the fatigue that many Kenyans feel over the political uncertainty in East Africa’s economic hub.

“We acknowledge the fact that you want to move on with your lives,” Mr Chebukati said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner in the August vote. Mr Odinga, whose legal challenge led to the vote being nullified, withdrew from the new election, saying the process was not credible.

The Supreme Court’s decision was the first time a court in Africa had overturned a presidential vote. The ruling was strongly criticised by Mr Kenyatta, who is seeking a second term.