Four dead in post-poll violence as jittery Kenya awaits final election results

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 August, 2017, 1:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 August, 2017, 9:18pm

A jittery Kenya awaits final poll results Thursday, with President Uhuru Kenyatta holding a strong lead after a vote marred by opposition claims of rigging and the deaths of four people in election-related violence.

The east African nation, keenly aware of post-poll violence a decade ago that left 1,100 dead, was on a knife-edge after a day of isolated protests in opposition strongholds.

The unrest broke out after opposition leader Raila Odinga claimed massive fraud as Kenyatta surged ahead in provisional results, with 54 per cent compared to his 44.7 per cent. Results from over 96 per cent of polling stations were in.

Two protesters were shot dead in the flashpoint slum of Mathare in Nairobi, where police also fired tear gas at crowds who burned tyres and blocked roads throughout the day.

An AFP photographer saw one young man dead with a gunshot wound to the head.

Nairobi police chief Japheth Koome said two who were killed had tried to “attack our officers with pangas (machetes) and that’s when the officers opened fire on them.”

In the southeastern Tana River region, police said five men armed with knives had attacked a vote tallying station and stabbed one person.

“Our officers killed two of them and we are looking for others who escaped,” said regional police chief Larry Kieng.

“We have not established the motive yet, we don’t know if it is political or if it’s a criminal incident but we are investigating and action will be taken.”

The region is prone to attacks by Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab militants.

Decrying a “sham” tallying process, Odinga detailed accusations of a major attack on the electronic voting system, saying hackers had gained entry using the identity of top IT official Chris Msando, who was found tortured and murdered late last month.

“This is an attack on our democracy. The 2017 general election was a fraud,” said Odinga, claiming detailed evidence of the hackers’ movements.

The 72-year-old, who is making his fourth bid for the presidency as the flagbearer for the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, accused his rivals of stealing victory from him through rigging in 2007 and in 2013.

“You can only cheat a people for so long,” he said.

Election commission (IEBC) chief Ezra Chiloba denied that the crucial electronic system - seen as key to avoiding fraud - had been compromised.

“Our election management system is secure. There was no external or internal interference to the system at any point before, during or after the voting,” he told a press conference.

Odinga’s claims led to isolated protests in his stronghold in the western city of Kisumu as well as in slums in Nairobi.

Responding to the tensions, former US secretary of state John Kerry, an observer with the Carter Centre, expressed confidence in the electronic voting system and urged Kenyans “not to jump to conclusions”.

“It is also going to be critical to the leaders of Kenya to step up and lead in the next days to give people confidence that this process is being worked carefully, thoughtfully and respectfully.”

The contest between Odinga and Kenyatta was seen by pollsters as too close to call ahead of the vote.

It is the second time the two men have faced off in a presidential election, a dynastic rivalry that has lasted more than half a century since their fathers Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Odinga went from allies in the struggle for independence to bitter rivals.

Uhuru Kenyatta, 55, is credited with overseeing steady economic growth of more than five per cent. But food prices have soared under his watch, and several major corruption scandals broke out in his first term