Dis­pute in Kenya’s pres­i­den­tial vote sim­mers as of­fi­cials work for so­lu­tion

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - NATION | WORLD - By Christo­pher Torchia and Tom Odula

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s sec­ond pres­i­den­tial elec­tion since Au­gust re­mained in limbo Satur­day as the elec­tion com­mis­sion said it was work­ing on a “way for­ward” in op­po­si­tion ar­eas where vot­ing has been post­poned be­cause of un­rest.

Most of the coun­try was calm, but po­lice used tear gas to dis­perse crowds in a Nairobi slum where anger to­ward the gov­ern­ment runs deep.

It was un­clear when ten­sions over the elec­tion, a re­run of the nul­li­fied Au­gust vote, would sub­side. Op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga boy­cotted the vote Thurs­day, cit­ing a lack of elec­tion re­forms. Tal­lies from many polling sta­tions, pub­lished on the elec­tion com­mis­sion’s web­site, showed Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta with vast leads over Odinga and six other can­di­dates.

But any de­ci­sion to de­clare Keny­atta the win­ner would likely in­ten­sify griev­ances among op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers in the East African coun­try with a rep­u­ta­tion for sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic growth. Kenya is strug­gling with di­vi­sions fu­eled by eth­nic-based pol­i­tics. The vot­ing de­lays in four coun­ties where op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers have fought with po­lice have com­pli­cated hopes for the coun­try’s trou­bled democ­racy.

The elec­tion com­mis­sion will pro­vide an up­date Sun­day “on the way for­ward” in two dozen con­stituen­cies where vot­ing did not oc­cur, com­mis­sion chief Wa­fula Che­bukati said.

“We have the ma­te­ri­als ready but we can’t do this alone. It’s a se­cu­rity is­sue,” Che­bukati said. “We can­not put the lives of our staff at risk.”

The elec­tion com­mis­sion also re­vised its turnout from Thurs­day’s elec­tion to 48 per­cent of 19.6 mil­lion reg­is­tered vot­ers, say­ing an ear­lier es­ti­mate of about one-third was not based on com­plete data. The op­po­si­tion boy­cott re­duced turnout in com­par­i­son to the Aug. 8 vote, when nearly 80 per­cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers par­tic­i­pated.

The Supreme Court nul­li­fied the Au­gust vote be­cause of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties — the first time a court in Africa had over­turned a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Odinga, whose le­gal chal­lenge led to the rul­ing, with­drew from the new elec­tion, say­ing the process was not cred­i­ble be­cause of the lack of elec­toral re­forms.

The streets of Kisumu, Kenya’s third-largest city and an op­po­si­tion strong­hold, were largely quiet Satur­day, though po­lice clashed with crowds in the Kawang­ware slum.

Young men in Kawang­ware, some car­ry­ing ma­chetes, taunted the po­lice and ran for cover. “No Raila, no peace,” some chanted.

“I don’t see this end­ing soon,” said one sup­porter, Paul Maumo.

Six peo­ple have died in vi­o­lence linked to the vote.

Ben Curtis / Associated Press

Op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers of Raila Odinga car­ry­ing rocks and ma­chetes tried to march down a road lead­ing out of the Kawang­ware area be­fore be­ing pushed back by po­lice fir­ing tear gas Satur­day in Nairobi, Kenya.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.