Supporters of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition (Rear) engage anti-riot policemen in Kawangware, Nairobi, on October 27, 2017. Kenya’s opposition on October 27 slammed plans to re-stage elections in its strongholds where violence had blocked voting, urging supporters to stay away from a “trap of death”. AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA
One person was shot dead in fresh protests in western Kenya on Friday, further staining a presidential election marred by division, low turnout and violence.
The latest bloodshed, which brought the death toll to six, occurred as angry opposition supporters took to streets in several western towns to protest plans to stage a poll on Saturday in four areas where voting had been blocked by election-day unrest.
The opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) slammed the “forced” attempt to restage what was already a repeat election on Thursday.
It urged supporters to stay away from a “trap of death”, saying it was an excuse to crack down on the Luo ethnic group of leader Raila Odinga.
The western region is a hotbed of support for Odinga, who boycotted Thursday’s vote in a move that has all but assured his rival President Uhuru Kenyatta a landslide victory, after the Supreme Court overturned his win in an August poll due to “irregularities”.
But as polling officials counted the ballots, difficult questions remained over the credibility of an election boycotted by a large part of the 19.6 million registered voters.
Initial turnout figures suggested only a third of registered voters turned up.
On Friday, angry protesters took to the streets, blocking roads in the western towns of Homa Bay, Migori and Bungoma, where one man was shot dead during a confrontation with police.
“People were running away from police and that is when they started shooting and he fell down and started bleeding heavily,” witness Maurice Wafula told AFP.
But local police chief Moses Nyakwama claimed he tried to grab an officer’s gun and was “unfortunately shot dead.”
There were also chaotic scenes in Migori where police engaged in running battles with youths, as well as protests in the western city of Kisumu, AFP correspondents said. And in Nairobi, there were scuffles in the Kawangware slum.
At least four people were killed during Thursday’s vote and around 50 others wounded, most of them by live bullets, according to an AFP tally of figures from officials and medics. Another succumbed to his injuries on Friday morning, medics said, raising the toll to six.
More unstable than ever
One of NASA’s leaders Musalia Mudavadi, accused Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee party of having “militarised elections”.
“Beefing up security here is a euphemism for state preparation to unleash even more lethal force and state violence into these counties than has been witnessed in recent times,” he said.
The vote came after a two-month political drama that began when the Supreme Court overturned Kenyatta’s victory in August 8 elections due to “irregularities”.
While the ruling was hailed as a chance to deepen democracy, the acrimonious bickering between Odinga and Kenyatta — whose fathers were rivals before them — has sharply divided a country where politics is already polarised along tribal lines.
Kenyatta’s Kikuyu group, the biggest in the country, has long wielded a monopoly on political and economic power.
Mudavadi said the low turnout proved that Kenyatta had in fact lost the election in August.
Odinga refused to take part in the re-run on the grounds the election commission had failed to make the necessary changes to ensure a free and fair vote.
Kenya is now “more fractured and unstable than ever before”, the Daily Nation concluded in an editorial on Friday. “There is a need to forge inclusivity.”
While the August election saw long queues of voters, Thursday’s vote was a different story with many polling stations empty or welcoming only a trickle of people.
The head of the IEBC election board, Wafula Chebukati said data from over 90 percent of constituencies showed less than 35 percent of voters had cast their ballot.
‘We won’t vote tomorrow’
Outside Kisumu’s morgue, a group of about 30 women stood weeping, with some holding up a sign saying: “Stop killing our sons”.
“The police should stop killing us. Our sons are not for sacrifice,” said Rose Nyadera, a 45-year-old butcher.
“Tomorrow we won’t go to the election. We do not want it to happen.”
After Thursday’s chaos, the night was relatively calm, although witnesses reported sporadic shooting in the slums shortly before midnight.
The confirmed casualties raised to 46 the total number of people killed in election-related violence since the August poll.
The crisis is the worst since a 2007 election sparked politically-driven ethnic violence that left 1,100 dead.