Kenya’s peaceful presidential election was briefly disrupted when riot police were called in to deal with scuffles at the national ballot tallying center amid tensions over the close results.
Kenya’s NAIROBI (AP) — Kenya’s peaceful presidential election was briefly disrupted when riot police were called in to deal with scuffles at the national tallying center amid tensions over the close results.
Before the calm was restored late Saturday, an agent for longtime opposition leader and candidate Raila Odinga announced from the lectern that the tallying center was the “scene of a crime.” In the latest example of unverified claims made by both top campaigns while Kenya awaits official results, the agent, Saitabao Ole Kanchory, provided no evidence.
The electoral commission has seven days after the election on Tuesday to announce the results. Chair Wafula Chebukati said again on Saturday that the process was too slow, and the commission told anyone watching at the center to leave.
“We must all avoid raising tensions that could easily lead to violence,” local human rights groups and professional associations said in a joint statement Sunday, urging candidates and supporters to exercise restraint.
As the electoral commission physically verifies more than 46,000 results forms electronically transmitted from across the country, the race between Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto remains tight.
Turnout in this election fell sharply, to 65%, as some Kenyans expressed fatigue with seeing long-familiar political leaders on the ballot, as well as frustration with economic issues such as widespread corruption and rising prices. By supporting Odinga, outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta crossed ethnic lines that have long defined politics. Years ago, the president had a falling out with his deputy, Ruto.
Previous elections have been marred by political violence, but this one, according to civil society observers, police, religious leaders, and others, has been peaceful.
In a phone call with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “encouraged continued peace and patience as the vote tallying from Kenya’s Aug. 9 election proceeds,” spokesman Ned Price said.
Residents in western Kenya said they were tired of waiting for results, but they were also depleted by the turmoil of the past.
“We are not prepared for any violence here,” said Ezekiel Kibet, 40, who added that if the process is transparent, he would accept the results. “We’re planning how our children will return to school.”
“Let whoever wins rule us,” Daniel Arap Chepkwony, 63, added. “Many people expect us to come out with our weapons, but we will not.”
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