Kenya’s deadly polls
enyan police killed at least 11 people in a crackdown on protests as anger at the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta erupted in the western city of Kisumu and slums in the capital, officials and
The bodies of nine young men shot dead overnight in Nairobi’s Mathare slum had been brought to the city morgue, a security official told Reuters. The men were killed during police anti-looting operations, the official added. Separately, a young girl in Mathare was killed by police firing “sporadic shots”, a witness said. The run-down neighbourhood is loyal to 72-year-old opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose party rejected Tuesday’s vote as a “charade”.
The unrest erupted moments after Kenya’s election commission announced late on Friday that Kenyatta, 55, had secured a second five-year term in office, despite opposition allegations that the tally was a fraud.
Kenyatta’s re-election was greeted with mixed feelings – some with jubilation, others with defiance and a sense of relief.
There were wild scenes of celebration outside the Kenya International Convention Centre in central Nairobi where Kenyatta delivered a speech shortly after returning from the results centre where he was declared president with 54.3% of the vote, with William Ruto as his deputy.
“Immediately when the IEBC [Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission] announced the results, people gathered at Ichaweri Village in Gatundu South Kiambu County [Kenyatta’s neighbourhood] to sing and dance and praise the Lord,” a supporter said.
In his acceptance speech, Kenyatta, flanked by his wife, Margaret, reached out to his opponent, Raila Odinga, who got 44.7% of the vote.
“We are not enemies, we are all citizens of one republic,” he said. “As in every competition, there will always be winners and losers, but we all belong to one great nation called Kenya and I extend a hand of friendship, cooperation and partnership, knowing full well that this country needs all of us pulling together.”
He also urged calm amid fears that post-election protests could turn violent and widespread, as it happened after the 2007 elections.
Odinga’s National Super Alliance on Thursday alleged there was massive rigging of the election results and declared him the winner.
The murder of the IEBC’s IT manager, Chris Msando, a week before the elections added to fears of voter rigging. The National Super Alliance claimed the elections database was hacked and demanded access to it hours before the results were announced on Friday.
Observers, including former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who led the African Union’s mission, said the National Super Alliance should follow correct procedures for lodging complaints and not foment public unrest.
By the time of going to press yesterday, Odinga had not conceded defeat and there were indications that the National Super Alliance could challenge the outcome in court.
Soon after the results were announced, there were reports of protests in places such as Kisumu in the southeast, and in some informal settlements around Nairobi, where gunshots were heard.
Odinga’s supporters chanted, “No Raila, no peace”, as they overturned cars and set tyres alight in Nairobi’s Kibera neighbourhood. A car carrying election observers was stoned on Friday night as they left the elections tallying centre at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi.
Yesterday, police arrested a local television reporter, apparently for wearing protective gear against their orders, and they attempted to restrict journalists covering protests. This was amid allegations of police brutality and the use of live ammunition on protesters.
Nyanza regional police commissioner, Wilson Njenga, claimed people took advantage of election grievances to loot and steal. Referring to comments made by opposition politicians in Nairobi, he said yesterday rioters were taking advantage of political statements in order to commit crimes. A bus was burnt on Friday night and a bank was broken into, but he denied police were using excessive force.
“They will not be allowed to come into town to threaten property and businesspeople. We are intent on dealing with anybody breaking the law.”
Terrorist attacks, such as the one on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi four years ago also saw security measures stepped up in the country.
Meanwhile, there were signs in the middle class areas of Nairobi yesterday that life was slowly returning to normal as the malls were busy.
Analyst and activist John Githongo, chief executive of the Inuka Kenya Trust, said police “performed wonderfully on election day” but post-election was a different story.
“There were photographs of police operating under different rules when dealing with the poor. Part of the reason Kenyans have been nervous to go back to work is that they knew that, if instructed, the police would behave with extreme force, especially in places like Kisumu and the informal settlements in Nairobi.”
This was the first election in which Kenyans living in Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa, as well as prisoners locally, were allowed to vote. In South Africa, Kenyatta received 358 votes as opposed to Odinga’s 302.