Monday, March 4, 2013

The Day of the Kenya Election

Today was a long and exciting day observing the polls. So far it looks like Uhuru Kenyatta has the lead but it is still early.

Overall a success with a few hiccups: Long lines, technical problems at polls, and a handful of instances of violence.

 Started the day in Nairobi. People were awake at 2 a.m. to vote and by 8 a.m. I personally saw three lines that were over half a mile long but Thika road, which is a six-lane highway, was empty of cars!

Around 9:45 I joined my sister-in law to vote at Khalsa School in Nariobi. Even with my press pass, which sent me to the front of the line, it took over 40 minutes to get inside the polling station. However, once we got the front of the line, it only took 5 minutes to vote.

When we were done we measured the voting line outside the Kasarni secondary school in Nairobi with our car and it was over a mile and a half long!

After Narobi, I traveled to Thika, an exurb of Nairobi in Kiambu county. Thika is very ethnically diverse with Kamba, Kikuyu, Luo, and Luyha. During my observations in Thika, it was overall very peaceful and orderly, however, there were some major technical concerns. The biometric machine, which is used to verify people’s identity, quit working since the battery ran down and there was no way to charge it. Other problems included people having trouble putting the six different ballot paper into the correct boxes.

Similar problems occurred in Muranga, the fourth polling station I observed. The biometric scanner, as well as the phone for transmitting votes was broken. Fortunately, by the time I arrived (around 3 p.m.) 86% of those registered had voted. Again, consistent long lines for the polls. NTV Kenya reported that those in queue as of 5p.m. would be allowed to vote, which for some areas required the polls to be open for quite some time. 

Although overall peaceful (so far), there were a few instances of violence.

The main instance occurred before the polls even opened, two senior police officers were killed in Mombasa. CNN reports that at least eight other people were killed and Prime Minster Raila Odinga fingered the Mombasa Republican Council, a separatists group as those responsible. He also insisted that this was a premeditated attack, not a spontaneous act of violence. Hundreds of police officers were dispatched to the coast province to keep the peace. 

Updated by: Jillian Underwood, Graduate Student, Clinton School of Public Service

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