Tampa Bay Times
Kenya postpones voting in 4 districts
NAIROBI, Kenya — Fears of further bloodshed led Kenya’s election commission to postpone voting planned today in some opposition strongholds, citing safety concerns for its workers as deadly clashes continued between police and protesters.
It was the second voting delay in four out of Kenya’s 47 counties, highlighting the bitter divisions and political uncertainty that intensified after Thursday’s repeat presidential election, which was boycotted by supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga. It was not clear when the voting will now take place.
At least six people have died in violence linked to the latest election, including a man who was shot and killed in the Nairobi slum of Kawangware as security forces moved to quell fighting between gangs from different ethnic groups late Friday, according to police.
Earlier in the day, stonethrowing protesters in Kawangware who support Odinga clashed with police who fired tear gas and water cannon. The rioters, some belonging to the Luhya and Luo ethnic groups, looted shops and set fire to a kiosk owned by an ethnic Kikuyu, according to witnesses. Kikuyu gangs with machetes then moved into the area and attacked the rioters. More fires were set and one man with a severe wound from a machete blow was seen on the ground, bleeding heavily.
“We are not celebrating this election!” one opposition supporter shouted as dozens of young men streamed by carrying sticks and stones.
Since Thursday, six police officers have been seriously injured in election violence and authorities have arrested 86 people, police said.
Many observers say Kenya’s ethnic-based politics overshadow the promise of its democracy. President Uhuru Kenyatta, who got 54 percent of the vote in the Aug. 8 presidential election that was later nullified by the Supreme Court over irregularities, is from the Kikuyu community. Odinga, who got nearly 45 percent in the earlier election, is a Luo.
Odinga’s legal challenge led to the nullification of the August vote. He then withdrew from the new election, saying the process was not credible because of the lack of electoral reforms.
Friday’s announcement that voting will not occur in several opposition areas “until further notice” followed warnings from opposition leaders that they would not participate, fearing a police crackdown.
“This is our polling station here but we won’t vote, come what may,” said R. Samson Odhiambo, a resident of Kisumu, Kenya’s third-largest city and an opposition stronghold.