Kenya Election Re-Run Marred by Boycott, Shooting and Tear Gas 

Kenyan Opposition supporters tried to sabotage President Uhuru Kenyatta’s likely re-election on 26 October.

2 min read
Opposition protesters watch riot police from behind a burning barricade, during clashes with police in the Mathare slum of Nairobi, Kenya on Thursday, 26 October 2017. 

Kenyan opposition supporters skirmished with police and threw up burning barricades in pockets of the country on Thursday, 26 October, seeking to derail President Uhuru Kenyatta's likely re-election with a low voter turnout.

The election commission said that more than one in 10 polling stations failed to open. Voting was delayed until 28 October in four of Kenya’s 47 counties – all in the opposition-supporting west – due to “security challenges”.

The repeat election is being closely watched across East Africa, which relies on Kenya as a trade and logistics hub, and in the West, which considers Nairobi a bulwark against Islamist militancy in Somalia and civil conflict in South Sudan and Burundi.

In the western city of Kisumu, police used tear gas and fired live rounds over the heads of stone-throwing youths heeding opposition leader Raila Odinga’s call for a voter boycott.

Gunfire killed one protester and wounded three, a nurse said. In Homa Bay county next door, police said they shot dead one protester and injured another.

Riot police fired tear gas in Kibera and Mathare, two volatile Nairobi slums. Protesters set fires and threw stones in Kibera, and in Mathare a church was firebombed. Around 50 people have been killed, mostly by security forces, since the original 8 August vote.

The Supreme Court annulled Kenyatta's win in that poll on procedural grounds and ordered fresh elections, but Odinga pulled out of the rerun and urged a boycott because, he said, the poll would not be fair.

In the capital, polling stations saw a sprinkling of voters instead of the hours-long queues that waited in August.

“We’re Tired as a Country of Electioneering”

With Kenyatta all but ensured a victory, eyes are on the turnout, which was nearly 80 percent in the August vote. The election commission said Thursday's estimated turnout was 48 percent, excluding the counties where voting did not take place.

“We are requesting them (voters) humbly that they should turn out in large numbers,” Kenyatta, the US-educated son of Kenya's founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, said after voting.

"We're tired as a country of electioneering and I think it's time to move forward."

A decade after 1,200 people were killed over another disputed election, many Kenyans feared violence could spread. As well as delayed voting, the poll is likely to trigger legal challenges to the result, stirring longer-term instability and ethnic divisions.

On 25 October, the Supreme Court was due to hear a case seeking to push back the polls. But it was unable to sit after five out of the seven judges failed to show up. "The lack of a quorum is highly unusual for a Supreme Court hearing," a statement from the European Union said. "Not hearing this case has de facto cut off the legal path for remedy."


(This article has been edited for length.)

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