As Kenyans head to the polls to­day

Daily Trust - - PHOTO NEWS - By Ab­dul­la­teef Salau

Mil­lions of reg­is­tered vot­ers in Kenya go to polls to­day in one of the most closely watched elec­tions on the African con­ti­nent.

Though the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral and Bound­aries Com­mis­sion (IEBC) cleared eight can­di­dates for pres­i­dency, the two main con­tenders are in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta and his long­time ri­val Raila Odinga.

The race is pro­jected to be tight. Opin­ion polls be­fore to­day’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion put the pair neck-and-neck. A run-off is pos­si­ble if nei­ther gains a 50-per­cent-plus-one ma­jor­ity.

Vot­ers will also choose gov­er­nors, mem­bers of par­lia­ment and sen­a­tors.

Last bat­tle of the dy­nas­ties

The two lead­ing can­di­dates’ fa­thers Jomo Keny­atta and Jaramogi Odinga were al­lies in the strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence, but later be­came bit­ter ri­vals, set­ting the stage for decades of po­lit­i­cal ran­cour.

In­cum­bent pres­i­dent Keny­atta is seek­ing a sec­ond and fi­nal term in of­fice for his Ju­bilee Party af­ter nar­rowly win­ning the 2013.

The 72-year-old Odinga, is tak­ing his fourth and what many be­lieve will be his last at­tempt at the pres­i­dency. He claims both elec­tions in 2007 and 2013 were stolen from him and is adamant Keny­atta’s Ju­bilee party is try­ing to do the same this time around. last elec­tion in

Eth­nic­ity fac­tor

Eth­nic­ity plays a huge role in Kenya’s pres­i­dency. The East African coun­try is home to more than 40 tribes but all of Kenya’s pres­i­dents have hailed from ei­ther the ma­jor­ity Kikuyu or the smaller Kalen­jin.

Mr Odinga’s Luo, the sec­ond largest eth­nic group, has yet to seize the top job. Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta comes from the Kikuyu tribe - the coun­try’s big­gest eth­nic group.

No sin­gle tribe can get on its own the 50% re­quired to win pres­i­dency. Can­di­dates form tribal al­liances to get them­selves and their eth­nic group a seat at the top ta­ble.

Pre-elec­tion jit­ters trig­gers ex­o­dus

Though the 2013 elec­tions were largely peace­ful, pre­elec­tion jit­ters have seen for­eign­ers and Kenyans leav­ing the coun­try or main ci­ties and stock­ing up food items in case of trou­ble.

The fi­nal days of cam­paign­ing for to­day’s polls have been marred by the bru­tal mur­der of the elec­toral com­mis­sion’s IT head, Chris Msando.

Kenya de­scended into vi­o­lence in 2007af­ter the op­po­si­tion, led by Odinga, claimed the elec­tion re­sults were rigged in favour of the then in­cum­bent Mwai Kibaki. This re­sulted in the in­ter-eth­nic vi­o­lence in which more than 1,000 peo­ple were killed and 600,000 dis­placed from their homes.

In a tele­vised na­tional ad­dress re­cently, Pres­i­dent Keny­atta urged a peace­ful vote and out­come.

Mas­sive se­cu­rity

This year about 180,000 se­cu­rity forces have been de­ployed to se­cure the poll, while the po­lice have brought in fleets of wa­ter can­non, ar­moured ve­hi­cles and tear gas to deal with any vi­o­lence.

Polling staff will be ac­com­pa­nied by se­cu­rity of­fi­cials and polling sta­tions will be heav­ily guarded to en­able vot­ers to ex­er­cise their demo­cratic rights, said elec­toral com­mis­sion CEO Ezra Chiloba.

Spe­cial Forces march at the pres­i­den­tial palace in Abid­jan dur­ing cel­e­bra­tions mark­ing the 57th an­niver­sary of the coun­try's in­de­pen­dence from France yes­ter­day. Photo:

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