Tight security ahead of Kenya poll results

Policemen chasing protesters in Kisumu, Kenya, yesterday. Claims of vote-rigging by opposition leaders has raised fears of clashes arising similar to those after the presidential election in 2007, when 1,200 people were killed.
Policemen chasing protesters in Kisumu, Kenya, yesterday. Claims of vote-rigging by opposition leaders has raised fears of clashes arising similar to those after the presidential election in 2007, when 1,200 people were killed. PHOTO: REUTERS

Opposition leaders repeat claims of fraud but appeal for calm as incumbent looks set to win

NAIROBI/KISUMU (Kenya) • Kenyan police beefed up security yesterday ahead of an expected announcement that President Uhuru Kenyatta has won re-election, despite allegations by opposition leader Raila Odinga of vote-rigging.

Opposition leaders repeated their claims of fraud but mainly appealed to supporters to remain calm. Kenya-based diplomats called for patience, and said any complaints must be channelled through the courts instead of onto the streets.

Police stationed extra forces at the airport in the western city of Kisumu in a bid to forestall any protests. The city is in a province that is Mr Odinga's stronghold.

Kisumu County police commissioner Joseph Keitany told Reuters: "We are securing the airport so people can get in and out. We are putting vehicles only in certain areas we deem to be hot spots."

Nairobi, the capital, was largely quiet, with little traffic and many businesses closed.

The dispute has raised fears among Kenyans of ethnic and political clashes of the kind triggered by a presidential election in 2007, when 1,200 people were killed. Kenya is the leading economy in East Africa, and any instability would be likely to ripple through the region.

The election commission was due to announce a winner from Tuesday's vote yesterday afternoon. Provisional results have shown the 55-year-old Mr Kenyatta, vying for a second and final five-year term, with a 1.4 million-vote lead.

Veteran opposition leader Odinga, 72, said results posted online by the election commission were false. His party declared him the winner on Thursday, based on a secret source within the election commission they declined to identify.

Mr Odinga is a member of the Luo, an ethnic group from the west of the country that has long said it is excluded from power. Mr Kenyatta is from the Kikuyu group, which has supplied three of four presidents since Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963.

Mr Odinga ran - and lost - in elections in 2007 and 2013, both of which were marred by irregularities. Both times he alleged fraud. In 2007, he called for street protests, while in 2013, he took his complaints to court, quelling potential violence.

International observers on Thursday gave the thumbs-up to this week's election, and United States Ambassador Robert Godec issued a statement on behalf of the diplomatic community calling for the election commission to be given time to complete its work.

Mr Odinga's next move, should Mr Kenyatta be declared the winner, is not clear. So far, he has not called for protests. While reiterating claims of fraud, most members of his coalition echoed appeals for peace.

Four people were killed in election-related violence on Wednesday, but demonstrations have mostly been brief and isolated as the country waits for official results.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2017, with the headline 'Tight security ahead of Kenya poll results'. Print Edition | Subscribe