Elections-kenya-mood-hope-high-turnout


title: 'Elections Kenya mood hope high turnout' published: true publish_date: '31-08-2016 14:56' taxonomy: category:

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    There was a huge turnout for general elections in Kenya, with some voters waiting for hours to cast their ballot. As VoR’s Vivienne Nunis reports, much of the campaign has been dominated by the fact that lead candidate Uhuru Kenyatta is due to face trial at the International Criminal Court later this year. Although at least 15 people were killed in co-ordinated attacks on Monday, the feeling was generally positive, with no sign yet of the widespread violence that rocked Kenya after the last elections. As Kenya went to the polls, many were holding their breath. The bloodshed in the wake of the 2007 general election – when more than 1,000 people died – remains a source of collective anxiety, both inside and outside the country. But reports from polling stations have been mostly positive and turnout has been immense. Huge numbers Michela Wrong is a freelance journalist and author in Nairobi. “What we’re seeing is huge numbers of voters,”she said. “They’re snaking around the corners of voting stations, along roundabouts, I’ve never seen the like. I’ve covered three elections here and these kind of numbers are exceptional.” The Kenyan monitoring website uchaguzi uses social media to collate country-wide reports on the elections in real time. It reported some people had waited up to 12 hours in the sun to have their say. Betty Murungi, a social justice advocate, reported some voters at Nairobi’s Chelete Primary School, were finally casting their votes at 5pm having arrived when polls opened at 6am. Attacks Monday wasn't without incident though. Kenyan police said 200 separatists armed with guns, machetes and bow and arrows set a trap for police in Mombasa before dawn, killing five officers. A second incident in nearby Kilifi killed one police officer and five attackers. Aly-Khan Satchu is a banker who spent many years in London but has now returned to his native Kenya. Speaking from Nairobi, he said the atmosphere has been overwhelmingly positive. Fear of violence “There’s been tremendous turnout. We had a few incidents. One in Mombasa, but I think in the scheme of things these were blips on the radar and nothing like the worst fears some people had,”he said. But the expectation of violence isn't unfounded. 2007 bloodshed In 2007, law and order broke down when the main opposition candidate Raila Odinga challenged the results. It ended in bloodshed: clashes with police and ethnic cleansing in the Rift Valley. Mr Odinga is again one of the two front runners in the presidential race. Currently prime minister, he’s making his third bid for president. His main competition is Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding president and current deputy prime minister. Criminal case Crucially, Mr Kenyatta has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, accused of crimes against humanity dating back to the post-election violence six years ago. He and his running mate William Ruto will face trial at The Hague in August. The case has divided the nation. Freelance journalist Michela Wrong says it’s dominated the election campaign. “A lot of people say Uhuru Kenyatta would not have stood a chance if it were not for the ICC prosecution against him,”she said. “Because what the ICC prosecution did for him was to turn him into a hero of his community. They feel he’s a martyr, they feel he’s been unfairly treated, they feel the ethnic cleansing was taking place on several sides and he’s been unfairly singled out and so ironically, a prosecution that was meant to end impunity in Kenya has ended up helping the chances of one of the candidates so this has really backfired in many ways as far as the international community is concerned.” Those sentiments are echoed by Nairobi banker Aly-Khan Satchu. International angle “It was played in a completely different way domestically,"said Mr Satchu. "Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto were able to play it in a way, from the international interference angle and played it extremely successfully. They managed to consolidate their vote and actually reach voters beyond their base, who felt the level of interference was unprecedented and slightly unfair,”he said. “I think politically speaking, it really back fired in particularly for some western countries who tried to say there would be consequences for voting for Mr Kenyatta. It actually snagged votes for both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto. So it was the defining narrative of this election, I’m afraid and counter intuitively it worked very much in their favour.” Mr Satchu predicts the ICC case against Mr Kenyatta will result in victory for him and his Jubilee Coalition. “They were very, very close in the last polls we saw which were about 5-6 days ago,”he said. “The momentum was in his favour, I think the turnout will favour him as well and I think there is a real chance he takes it in the first round. If he doesn’t, it changes the dynamics quite dramatically in the second round, however.” Vote count Results aren’t expected till Wednesday at the earliest, but the large turnout could result in a delay. Michela Wrong says the threat of violence will escalate as votes are counted. “What we have to look at with these elections, [is] we’re at the preliminary stage, it’s going very well so far, but the tricky moment is going to come when one of the two main candidates have to accept they’ve lost the elections because both candidates are extremely confident, convinced they’re going to win and that’s going to be a very bitter pill for one man to swallow,”she said. Official results for the first round will be announced by March 11.

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