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Huge turnout in Kenya despite fears

by
08 March 2013

By a staff reporter

REUTERS

AS VOTERS in Kenya waited for the result of their presidential poll this week, the Church Mission Society reported that many people had left their homes, fearing a repeat of the violence seen after the last elections, between 2007 and 2008, when more than 1000 people were killed.

About 99,000 police officers were on duty during this week's election, to quell any post-election violence.

Voting passed off peacefully in many regions, although at least 15 people were killed on Monday by gangs armed with machetes. A suspected grenade attack on voters in one polling station caused no injuries.

Lines of voters stretched outside polling stations across the country on Monday, and many stations stayed open late into the night. The turnout was estimated at 70 per cent.

As the Church Times went to press, results were trickling in, showing that the Deputy Prime Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, was ahead of the Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, with 53 per cent of the votes cast. The leading candidate needs to get more than 50 per cent of the total votes cast, or there will have to be a second round of balloting. A large number of spoiled ballot-papers were reported.

Voting has often been on ethnic lines in Kenya. Mr Kenyatta is from the largest tribe, the Kikuyu, and Mr Odinga is from the smaller Luo tribe. Both men are also receiving support from the tribes of their vice-presidential running mates.

Mr Kenyatta is accused of orchestrating the violence after the election in 2007, and is due to stand trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague next month.

The United States and other Western countries are concerned about the impact of the trial if Mr Kenyatta wins the poll. Kenya is seen as a vital ally in the battle against militant groups such as al-Qaeda and its offshoot in Somalia, al-Shabab.

Churches had played a leading part before the elections in urging peace. Prayers for peace were said across the country on Sunday.

The Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Eliud Wabukala, told Radio 4's Sunday programme this week that the Church had organised a presidential debate in the cathedral with all candidates, in order "to create cohesion".

He said that he hoped there would be peace, as the new constitution for the country had strengthened the judicial process.

The Quakers have been train- ing people to act as citizen reporters, raising the alarm when the first signs of violence appear, and as election observers.

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