Kenyans brave long queues to vote in elections

Published On March 4, 2013 | By | News
Kenyans across the country voted Monday for their next president, five years after disputed elections resulted in violence. COURTESY: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

Kenyans across the country voted Monday for their next president, five years after disputed elections resulted in violence. COURTESY: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

By Sharon Tindyebwa

Long lines and flares of violence marked Kenya’s elections Monday as millions took to the polls five years after disputed election results left over 1,000 dead.

The New York Times reported that four policemen had been hacked to death with machetes in Mombasa overnight.

The attack is believed to have been carried out by the Mombasa Republican Council, a separatist groups that thinks Mombasa should be its own country.

According to the Associated Press, three members of the council and four police were also killed in the coastal city of Kilifi.

Voting hours have been extended by up to seven hours as thousands are still in line to cast their vote, according to the BBC.

Catherine Kamau, a Kenyan living in British Columbia, said people were willing to wait long hours to vote because “they want change.”

“We are people that do not have social programs. Here even if you don’t vote, you still get your basic needs met,” Kamau said. “In Kenya, we need change so that the economy can grow, so that health services and the general cost of living can improve.”

Kamau said, “it is all about the changing economy, that is why people go out and vote.”

The two perceived runner-ups for the president post are Raila Odinga, the current Prime Minister and Uhuru Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister.

Separate from the violence that occurred in Mombasa, there is concern that there could be further violence along tribal lines if neither candidates gather enough votes – more than 50 per cent – to avoid a run-off in April.

Odinga is a Luo and Kenyatta is a Kikuyu.

Violence erupted in 2007 after disputed election results. Odinga and his supporters said they had been swindled out of victory, resulting in fighting along ethnic lines.

Kamau said she is worried of the backlash if Odinga loses given what happened in 2007.

Kenyatta is facing charges of crimes against humanity for his alleged financial support of Kikuyu militants who orchestrated attacks against Luos.

If Kenyatta is elected, he would be the second sitting president to be facing charges by the International Criminal Court, in addition to Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir.

Despite the charges, Kenyatta remains a leading contender, with some polls putting him ahead of Odinga.

Stuart Hendin, a professor who specializes in international law at University of Ottawa, said he is not surprised the ICC’s indictment has had little impact on the ground.

“I would suspect the average man on the street…has very little comprehension of the function and purpose of the ICC,” he said.

Kamau said she was concerned of what the ICC charges would mean, but that there was some feeling among some Kenyans that Kenyatta was being used as a scapegoat.

Both sides have urged calm, according to AP. Election results are not expected until next Tuesday or Wednesday.

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