Kenyans flock to vote in high-stakes elections

Nairobi: Kenyans flocked to vote on Tuesday in elections headlined by a knife-edge battle between incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta and his rival Raila Odinga that has sent tensions soaring in east Africa’s richest economy.
From first-time voters to those bent with age, from urbanites to ethnic Samburu warriors draped in colourful beads and carrying spears, thousands descended upon polling stations long before dawn to cast their ballots.
“I really hope for a change of leadership, I really hope for a change in the way we do politics. I want corruption out of the country,” said Mary Wangu, 42, at a Nairobi polling station.
However, after over six hours of queuing she said she was “fed up” at the slow voting process.
Electoral commission (IEBC) chief Wafula Chebukati said “voting was going smoothly” despite minor delays, technical hiccups and heavy rain slowing the process at some of the 41,000 polling stations.
All eyes are on the biometric voter identification and tallying system which suffered severe glitches in 2013 polls.
The system is seen as crucial to a smooth election amid opposition accusations of a plot to rig the vote.
Tensions have soared over fraud claims and the murder of an official in charge of the electronic voting system in the final days of campaigning.
Tuesday’s elections are taking place a decade after a shambolic 2007 vote — which foreign observers agreed was riddled with irregularities — sparked violence which left more than 1,100 people dead and 600,000 displaced.
The IEBC moved quickly to deal with complaints on Tuesday, removing clerks in a polling station where ballot papers were pre-marked as “rejected”.
In the port city of Mombasa a clerk was arrested for issuing double ballot papers to certain voters, local police said.
“I voted Raila, because he will be so much better to us. But if he does not win, it’s ok. It’s a democracy after all. Really, there’s no need for violence,” said Tom Mboya, 43, who works in construction and voted in the capital’s largest slum Kibera.
The election is set to be the final showdown of a dynastic rivalry that has lasted more than half a century since the presidential candidates’ fathers Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Odinga went from allies in the struggle for independence to bitter rivals.
The men belong to two of Kenya’s main ethnic groups, Kenyatta from the Kikuyu, the largest, and Odinga from the Luo. — AFP