Kenya: Police Disperse Election Protesters in Nairobi a Day After Intense Violence


Kenyan police used tear gas Saturday to disperse election protesters in the impoverished Nairobi district of Kawangware, one day after a fire burned hundreds of businesses, and after men armed with machetes and sticks looted stores and homes.

Young men, many of whom back opposition leader Raila Odinga, heckled police and ran for cover to escape the gas. Of the violence, Odinga supporter Paul Maumo said, “I don’t see this ending soon,” and charged the national election commission of orchestrating a fraudulent vote.

Friday’s violence was sparked by a rumor that the Mungiki, a Kikuyu tribal militia, had entered the area. The Mungiki are known for decapitating and castrating victims and were blamed for hundreds of deaths in 2007. Within minutes of their rumored arrival, the men, already angry over Kenya’s divisive election, grabbed weapons to defend their territory. One man was beaten to death.

Election commission chief Wafula Chebukata said he would give an update Sunday “on the way forward” in some opposition areas where voting in last Thursday’s presidential election had not occurred because of security problems.

The commission postponed voting in those areas Thursday and put it off indefinitely late Friday, citing threats to electoral staff. No new date has been announced.

The commission is urging patience and calm as it tallies the results of Thursday’s rerun presidential election. But some feared the low turnout — just 35 percent, compared with nearly 80 percent in the previous poll in August — might undercut the credibility of the results.

The chief of Kenya’s electoral commission said 6.5 million voters, about one-third of all registered voters, cast ballots in Thursday’s election.

Opposition leader Odinga told his supporters to boycott the vote, and some polling stations looked like ghost towns. Others had lines, but they were significantly shorter than lines that formed during the August election.

As of midafternoon Friday, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission said it had received the majority of official polling station forms and official constituency forms from the field, but had yet to announce any vote count.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is making his second attempt at re-election. The Supreme Court nullified his victory in the August 8 election, ruling that the electoral commission had not followed electoral law and the constitution.

Odinga called for several members of the commission to step down and for the election to be postponed beyond the 60-day deadline announced by the court.

The opposition has not said whether it plans to file a legal challenge to the results of Thursday’s election.

Odinga told supporters he would give further “instructions” on Monday.

VOA’s Jill Craig in Nairobi and Mohammed Yusef contributed to this report.

Filed in: Current Affairs / News