Kenya votes: Machete attacks mar opening of presidential election (LIVE BLOG)



Maasai tribes-people leave after voting in Ilngarooj, Kajiado South County, Maasailand, on March 4, 2013 during Kenya's elections.


Carl de Souza


UPDATE: 3/4/13 2:58 PM ET

#KenyaDecides to flip the script with #PicturesforStuart and #SomeoneTellCNN

The hashtag #KenyaDecides united the election-focused Twittersphere during today's hours of poll watching.

But there were two more specific hashtags in the mix — both reflecting Kenyan takes on foreign media coverage of their election.

#PicturesforStuart sprang up in response to a tweet from Stuart Norval, a France 24 anchor who spoke of “dramatic pictures” out of Kenya showing “huge crowds fall[ing] over each other to vote." Tweets bearing #PicturesforStuart mocked the romance and drama Norval found in long lines and security threats.

#SomeoneTellCNN, which made the rounds on Twitter last year over a disputed report by the news outlet, also resurfaced. The Washington Post wrote that this time CNN was in hot water for reports focusing on the possible threat militants posed to the elections.

Here are a few more highlights from the #KenyaDecides conversation:

UPDATE: 3/4/13 1:57 PM ET


- Early violence left 15 dead (earlier reports had said 17), but the day proceeded peacefully afterward

- High turnout and very long lines were reported around the country

- Technical difficulties: Problems with spoiled ballots reported, with the IEBC admitting to "multiple failures" of electronic poll books

With 10 percent counted, Kenyatta's in the lead — but it's far too early to name a winner

GlobalPost's Tristan McConnell filed this report at 9:24 p.m. local time:

NAIROBI, Kenya — Despite long queues — sometimes more than a kilometer in length during the middle of the day — polling finished more or less on time across much of the country. Early indications were that turnout was likely to have been high. In the Kibera slum, in the capital Nairobi, a sampleof eight different polling centers soon after the close of voting gave turnouts of 76 per cent and higher.

As dusk fell the counting began with each ballot paper held up and shown to observers before being placed in piles according to candidate.

By 8pm local time — just three hours after the official end of voting — provisional results were being tallied by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission at its center on Nairobi's outskirts. With just 10 percent of the vote counted at 9 p.m. local time, Uhuru Kenyatta was in the lead with 57 percent of the vote against Raila Odinga's 39 percent. But with many polling stations still to report, it was far too early to draw conclusions.

One potentially worrying sign in the day's voting was the apparently widespread failure of electronic devices intended to protect against fraud. The so-called "poll books" are laptops with attached thumb print readers and are supposed to be more difficult to tamper with then paper voter registers. But early on Monday, soon after voting began, the IEBC admitted to "multiple failures" of the poll books countrywide.

At a number of polling centers visited by GlobalPost just north of Nairobi, officials said the laptops had run out of batteries, so the old manual system was being used instead.

UPDATE: 3/4/13 12:40 PM ET

So...who's winning?

It's too early to say which candidate will end up Kenya's president, but we can tell you who the frontrunners are.

The leading candidates, Reuters wrote before the weekend, are Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who were neck-and-neck in recent polls. Kenyatta is also known for being Kenya's richest man, while Odinga, a powerful poltical force, paints himself as a reformer.

Should a run-off vote be necessary, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, also running for the seat, could serve as an important "king-maker," according to Reuters.

Learn more about all three here.

UPDATE: 3/4/13 12:27 PM ET

Obama is running for office in Kenya

But hold your horses, Donald Trump; it's not that Obama.

Apparently, politics is in the family genes. Reuters reports that Malik Obama, 54, was inspired by his half-brother — US President Barack Obama — to launch a bid for a governor's seat in rural Siaya county.

"If my brother is doing great things for people in the United States, why can't I do great things for Kenyans here?" Malik Obama said from Kogelo.

Read the rest of the Reuters report here.

UPDATE: 3/4/13 12:15 PM ET

Electoral commission gets credit for efficiency

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, thanks to Kenya's new 2010 constitution, is the official, independent body charged with administering elections. Prominent voices closely watching the elections praised the IEBC for their speed in sharing initial results:

UPDATE: 3/4/13 11:55 AM ET

High turnout, long lines.... Now, we count

Poll workers in Kenya may have a long night of ahead. Early reports suggest voter turnout could have surpassed 85 percent.

GlobalPost's Tristan McConnell shot video of some very careful ballot-counting at a polling station in Kibera, Nairobi:

UPDATE: 3/4/13 11:37 AM ET

MRC denies involvement in attacks

Reports this morning fingered the Mombasa Republican Council for some of the fatal attacks that marred the early hours of Kenya's national vote. But the secessionist group later denied responsibility, with a spokesman telling Reuters, "We are not responsible for any attacks anywhere in this region."

UPDATE: 3/4/13 10:15 AM ET

'All good all round except for a horrible incident in Mombasa'

That's GlobalPost correspondent Tristan McConnell's Twitter-sized summary of election day in Kenya. McConnell shared highlights from his reporting throughout the day — follow him @t_mcconnell.

UPDATE: 3/4/13 9:37 AM ET

It's 5:34 p.m. in Nairobi; poll lines are closed, but the vote's not over

Lines persisted after the official 5 p.m. close of voting stations in Kenya. Those in line by the deadline are still permitted to vote — it could take hours longer for the country to finish.

UPDATE: 3/4/13 7:25 AM ET

Why this is a 'watershed' vote

"The last time Kenyans voted the results were disputed and ethnically-aligned gangs took to the streets," GlobalPost's Tristan McConnell writes from Nairobi.

"More than 1,100 people died during weeks of violent unrest, which is why there is so much attention on this vote. If peaceful, it will lay the ghosts of the last election to rest, but if it again descends into violence Kenya’s reputation as a stable, thriving corner of Africa will be dealt a heavy blow."

Read McConnell's full dispatch here.

UPDATE: 3/4/13 6:07 AM ET

Long lines, early violence

NAIROBI — Voting began in Kenya’s watershed election on Monday with long queues of patient voters lining up long before dawn in many parts of the country, including the capital Nairobi, GlobalPost's Tristan McConnell reports.

But the start of the polls were marred by two separate deadly attacks on police in the coastal region. Read McConnell's full report here.

At least 15 people were killed in separate attacks as voting opened, McConnell said.

The violence took place near the coastal town of Kilifi and in Mombasa, and has "cast a shadow over a vote seen as vital to repairing the country's image" after the violent 2007 election, in which more than 1,200 people died.

Those clashes, between tribal loyalists of rival candidates, shattered Kenya's reputation as one of Africa's most stable democracies and brought its economy to a standstill.

On Monday, security officers, civilians and attackers were among those killed — reportedly by a group of 200 secessionists from the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) armed with guns, machetes and bows and arrows, the Associated Press said.

However, the MRC officially denied responsibility for the attacks, according to Reuters.

One of attacks reportedly took place outside Mombasa, in Changamwe, and another in Kilifi, about 80 miles to the north of Mombasa.

In addition, the BBC reported three explosions in separate polling stations in Mandera, a town on the border with Somalia, that killed one person.

The MRC had in recent weeks tried to have the national vote scrapped and a referendum held on secession instead.

The MRC attack was condemned by the country's top two presidential candidates, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

The AP cited Kimaiyo as saying:

"People with ill intent must be stopped by all means."

He said police had been ordered to use their guns to stop further loss of life.

Up to 400 more police officers were flown to Mombasa, while the UN reportedly restricted the movement of its staff on the coast.

More from GlobalPost: Kenya's coast feels a sea away from national elections

The US and other Western countries have expressed concern over stability in the country, seen as a vital ally against militant Islam in the region.

Al Shabaab militants, who have battling Kenyan peacekeeping troops in Somalia, also issued threats before the vote.

Meanwhile, voting produced long lines around the country early Monday, with new — and apparently bug-ridden — anti-fraud fingerprint voter ID technology further frustrating delayed voters.

Polls suggest Odinga and Kenyatta will struggle to secure enough ballots for an outright victory in the first round, setting the stage for a run-off on April 11.

This article has been corrected to reflect a revised death toll of 15, earlier reported as 17.

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