A stray voter leaving the Lumakanda polling station.
Yesterday, October 26, was the date for the re-election in Kenya. At 8:40 a.m. I visited the Lumakanda polling station at the primary school. I sat outside and watched for half an hour. Lugari constituency and Lumakanda town in it are opposition NASA strongholds. People had told me that they were not going to vote so I did not expect to see many voters. During that half hour twelve voters showed up. Eleven were middle-aged men and one a middle-aged woman. In other words the elderly, women, and youth did not vote. I was surprised to read in the reports on the election in the rest of the country that this was common in the opposition strongholds where voting took place. In Lugari constituency there were only 2526 voters in the repeat election out of 71,144 registered voters. This is 3.6%. Uhuru Kenyatta received 2396 votes or 94.9%. Even though Raila Odinga had withdrawn from the election and told his supporters not to vote, in Lugari constituency he had 90 votes or 3.6%. On my way home from the polling station, I noticed a small fire in the street, pictured below.
A small fire in the middle of the road in Lumakanda next to the motorcycle taxi stand. No one was near the fire and the taxi drivers had moved down the street. It seems to be a rather weak sign of protest.
I decided not to visit the two polling stations in nearby Turbo which I had observed during the first election. Turbo is a town with a tribally mixed population and in the 2007 post election violence half the town was burned down. The Kenyan security forces had designated it as one of the hot spot areas for the repeat vote. If there was any violence there, as an obvious foreigner, I could easily be targeted.
As expected in the Kikuyu counties north of Nairobi, turnout was very high with 99% of the voters voting for Uhuru. Unexpectedly turnout in the the Kalenjin counties where deputy president William Ruto come from was low – this is a bad sign for his attempts to become the Kenyan president at the next election in 2002.
In four counties in Raila Odinga’s Luo home area few polling stations were open. The local youth blocked delivery of voting materials and access to polling stations. They intimidated election officials so that most were afraid to show up. Thirteen percent of the polling stations in the country did not open. The IEBC has announced that there will be a second attempt tomorrow to have the voting stations open. Perhaps with lots more security polling stations might be open, but few or no voters will show up. Political and religious leaders have asked that this second attempt be voided as it will only lead to more distruption, violence, and perhaps death with little or no obvious gain.
Four people were killed on election day and at least 20 more injured. There were running battles between the youth and police in Raila strongholds near Lake Victoria, Nairobi, and the coast. The most “creative” intimidation was in nearby Malava constituency where a group of youth brought bee hives to the polling station to scare away the voters.
There was a picture in the paper of a voting box in an opposition stronghold which near the end of the day had exactly one ballot in the box. There were 6,553,858 votes out of 19,611,423 registered voters for a participation rate of 33.4%. So far with almost half the votes tabulated Uhuru is receiving 98% of the vote. If this rate continues, he will receive a total of 6,422,781 votes. In the August 8 election he received 8,223,369 votes. Therefor this election he received 1,800,588 or 21.9% fewer votes.
What is the meaning of all this? In essence this re-election doesn’t change anything. Since the time of Kenyan independence in 1963, when Uhuru and Raila’s fathers faced off in bitter opposition, the conflict has persisted. This re-election has therefore not resolved anything, but is just another chapter in the conflict that has divided the country for 54 years. It is not clear what will happen next. On the negative side, Jubilee has taken Raila and his running mate to court on charges of obstructing the election – this carries a possible sentence of six months in jail. On the positive side, Uhuru, when he went to vote yesterday, said that after the election he would reach out to Raila for talks on how to unify the country. This would be excellent, but first Uhuru would need to follow through on this offer and then both sides would need to negotiate and compromise in order to reach a working deal that can save Kenya from continued turmoil.
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From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC) and Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. David is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region.
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