Kenyan opposition supporters clash with police over elections re-reun
Kenyan opposition supporters clashed with police and threw up burning barricades in pockets of the country on Thursday, seeking to derail an election rerun likely to return Uhuru Kenyatta as president of East Africa’s economic powerhouse.
In the western city of Kisumu, police used tear gas and fired live rounds over the heads of stone-throwing youths heeding opposition leader Raila Odinga’s call for a voter boycott. Gunfire killed one protester and wounded three, a nurse said. Reuters found no polling stations open there.
Riot police fired tear gas in Kibera and Mathare, two volatile Nairobi slums. Protesters set fires in Kibera early in the morning, and in Mathare a church was firebombed
Around 50 people have been killed, mostly by security forces, since the original Aug. 8 vote. The Supreme Court annulled Kenyatta’s win in that poll on procedural grounds and ordered fresh elections within 60 days; but Odinga called for a boycott because, he said, the poll would not be fair.
The repeat election is being closely watched across
s East Africa, which relies on Kenya as a trade and logistics hub, and in the West, which considers Nairobi a bulwark against Islamist militancy in Somalia and civil conflict in South Sudan and Burundi.
While tensions simmered in opposition strongholds, other areas were calm. In the capital, polling stations saw a sprinkling of voters instead of the hours-long queues that waited in August.
The police said there had been isolated incidents of violence in five out of 47 counties, including a man shot dead in Homa Bay County.
Interior minister Fred Matiang‘i told Citizen TV that polling stations opened in 90 percent of the country, including Kiambu, where Kenyatta cast his ballot.
“We are requesting them (voters) humbly that they should turn out in large numbers,” Kenyatta, the U.S.-educated son of Kenya’s founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, said after voting. “We’re tired as a country of electioneering and I think it’s time to move forward.”
A decade after 1,200 people were killed over another disputed election, many Kenyans feared violence could spread.
If some counties fail to hold elections, it could trigger legal challenges to the result, stirring longer-term instability and ethnic divisions.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court was due to hear a case seeking to delay the polls. But it was unable to sit after five out of the seven judges failed to show up, fuelling suspicions among opposition supporters.
“The lack of a quorum is highly unusual for a Supreme Court hearing,” a statement from the European Union said. “Not hearing this case has de facto cut off the legal path for remedy.”
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