Vote count begins in Kenyan polls

Vote counting has begun in the tightly-contested Kenyan election, with incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta and challenger Raila Odinga in a neck-and-neck race.

Both candidates are chasing a defining victory: for Kenyatta, it would be his second and last term as president, while perennial challenger Odinga is hoping to occupy State House for the first time. For Odinga, age 72, this is probably his last campaign.

Polling stations opened at 6am, although some voters were already queuing as early as midnight – arriving before election officials even. At some polling stations, the queues were still there when polls closed 12 hours later.

A new digital voting system failed to speed up the process. The much-vaunted fingerprint voter verification system failed in many cases, forcing presiding officers to allow voters to fill in a manual verification form before casting their votes.

The elections cost the taxpayers a whopping 45.5-billion Kenyan shillings (R5.9-billion).

Election officials had to deal with several unexpected issues.

One minor presidential candidate, Dr Ekuru Aukot, was stranded for hours at Nginyang Police station after heavy floods washed away a bridge that was the only access to his polling station. Aukot, who is running on the Third Way Alliance ticket, was expected to vote in Turkana East constituency but had not voted by early afternoon.

“It’s unfortunate the tribulation one has to go through trying to go and cast a ballot,” said Aukot.

Earlier in the day, 24 people were injured after agitated voters caused a stampede at Moi Avenue Primary School in Nairobi. Consulate Maina, vice-chair of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, said that the voters had queued long before the officials arrived. When the gates to the polling station were finally opened, at 5.45am, people were trampled on in a scramble to get to the front.

In Baringo, 800 voters in 11 polling stations had to be transferred to different polling stations due to security fears: the area is known for cattle rustling, and officials feared attacks.

Meanwhile, at Kuwit polling station, a woman had a stillbirth as she waited to cast her vote, forcing health care workers to rush her to a nearby health facility. In Konyau Mixed secondary school, a woman delivered a baby girl after queuing for three hours.

Initial results are expected to begin trickling in on Wednesday.

Both Kenyatta and Odinga expressed confidence in clinching the election, and have appealed to Kenyans to maintain peace as the vote counting and announcement of results continues.

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Njeri Kimani
Njeri Kimani is a journalist based in Nakuru, Kenya.
In Nakuru
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