Amid Opposition Boycott, Kenyans Vote In Re-Run Of Presidential Election

Oct 26, 2017
Originally published on October 26, 2017 12:05 pm

Updated at 4 a.m. ET

Clashes between police and stone-throwing youths occurred in some parts of the Kenyan capital on Thursday as the country went to the polls for the second presidential election since August amid a boycott by opposition leader Raila Odinga.

In the latest voting, supporters of Odinga have blocked some polling stations as police fired tear gas in clashes with the opposition in Kibera, a Nairobi slum that is a key stronghold of anti-Kenyatta sentiment.

Police also battled stone-throwing Odinga supporters in Kisumu, another opposition stronghold. They fired tear-gas and, Reuters reports, live ammunition into the air in an effort to disperse protesters.

NPR's Eyder Peralta reports from Nairobi: "[There] are already roadblocks set up across opposition strongholds. Some polling places have been barricaded and in Kisumu, voting materials are stranded because there are no election staff to take them out to their precincts. In large swaths of Kenya, however, people are queuing and casting ballots and security forces have begun moving in to restive areas."

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is seeking a second term, was announced the winner in the Aug. 8 vote, but irregularities soon surfaced and the Supreme Court subsequently nullified the results.

Odinga, who told his supporters not to cast ballots on Thursday, calls the vote a "charade."

Speaking on Wednesday with Eyder he said: "I think the time comes in the history of a country when people have to stand up and say no to impunity."

The Associated Press reports:

"Voting, meanwhile, proceeded in areas where President Uhuru Kenyatta has support, but fewer voters were turning out in comparison to an Aug. 8 election that the Supreme Court nullified because it found illegalities and irregularities in the election process.

Voters lined up before dawn at a polling station in Kenyatta's hometown of Gatundu and electoral workers prepared ballot papers by flashlight after heavy rains knocked out power to the site. Downpours also disrupted the delivery of ballot papers in Kenya's Kitui area, according to local media."

The BBC reports that about 70 people have been killed in violence since the August election.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Going to turn now to Kenya, where it is election day, and already, we are seeing a lot of violence. At least two people are dead, and dozens have been injured. Four counties have now delayed voting until Saturday. Now, there were results of a presidential election back in August that were contested. This is a now redo, but the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, has urged Kenyans to stay away. There are protests that have erupted around the country, including - as you might actually hear - some gunfire. We're going now to one polling place in Nairobi. NPR's Eyder Peralta is there, and he has been following this tense situation. Eyder, tell us what you're seeing.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey, David. Yeah, I'm in Kibera, which is an opposition stronghold here in Nairobi. And right now I'm seeing a standoff between police and protesters. You can probably hear some gunfire in the background. And there's lots of tear gas. And basically, protesters are trying to get into this polling station, and police are trying to stop them from getting in.

GREENE: Well, can you just remind us - I mean, Odinga lost the first election officially. He's the one who contested the results. He's now saying this new election is a charade. So is this is his answer - this violence?

PERALTA: Yesterday, he announced that his party was becoming a resistance movement. He actually told people to stay home. But obviously, that's not what's happening. I think, you know, what Raila Odinga has tapped into is a feeling of oppression in this country. And that's what you hear from the protesters that they think that this government has stolen elections before and that they're going to do it again.

GREENE: Can you just tell us more of what you're seeing. I mean, these are his protesters who are standing in a standoff with police. I mean, is anyone actually being able to get in there and vote?

PERALTA: Not here. I mean, you know, there are - there is voting going on in a lot of parts of Kenya. But in big opposition strongholds, no one is voting. In this polling station, you know, I talked to one woman who tried to get here, but she couldn't. There's people - you know, the ballot material is being brought in by police - under police escort. And people - the poll workers are covering their faces because they're afraid that when this is over, people will take revenge.

GREENE: This is a country that has seen bitter politics and violence. This election is bitterly dividing the country. I mean, how does this end?

PERALTA: I don't think anyone knows the answer to that question. You know, there's a lot - a lot of this is about tribe. And also, you know, one of the saddest things that happened during this election season is that two pillars of democracy - two big institutions have lost a huge amount of credibility in this country. And I don't think anyone knows how that - those institutions are rebuilt.

GREENE: And what are you seeing now? How are police handling this? I mean, are we going to see arrests of the opposition or what's going to happen?

PERALTA: There has already been arrests across the country from people who have been charged with incitement. But, you know, what I'm seeing here - what I'm seeing here is basically a battle between police and protesters. Protesters, you know, try and make it into the polling place. And police fire at them - tear gas and then gunfire. We don't know if it's live rounds or blanks. But it's just - you know, it's ongoing.

GREENE: Eyder be safe. And we appreciate you taking the time but please be safe.

PERALTA: Thank you, David.

GREENE: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta on election day in Nairobi, Kenya. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.