Kenya holds re-run presidential election amid opposition boycott

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Kenyans turn up to vote in one of the polling stations in Nairobi . Photo by CGTN’s Jane Kiyo

Polls have opened Thursday in Kenya’s re-run presidential election despite attempts on Wednesday by the opposition to delay the vote.

Election has been delayed in some opposition strongholds as youths burnt street barricades, heeding an election boycott by their leader, Raila Odinga.

The fresh election follows an August vote whose result was annulled by the Supreme Court due to procedural irregularities.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has said he will not take part in the re-run election.

Picture from Bangladesh, one of the biggest slums in Mombasa, where some residents have refused to let ballot papers to be delivered to polling stations. Photo by CGTN’S Vauldi Carelse

In the western town of Migori, several hundred young men milled around on a main road littered with rubble and burning barricades.

In Kisumu, the epicenter of support for opposition leader Odinga, polling stations that were meant to open at dawn stayed firmly shut and election officials were nowhere to be found.

Anti-riot police were patrolling in Kibera and Mathare, two volatile slums in the capital, Nairobi.

Odinga backed off previous calls for protests and urged his supporters to stay out of the way of police.

“We advise Kenyans who value democracy and justice to hold vigils and prayers away from polling stations, or just stay at home,” Odinga said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday urged his supporters to turn up for Thursday’s repeat presidential election, saying the country will emerge from the current political upheavals.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta casts his ballot inside a polling station in his hometown of Gatundu in Kiambu county, Kenya August 8, 2017. REUTERS

The President, in a broadcast, acknowledged that his country had undergone challenges, but gave assurances that it would emerge from them.

“I believe we can hold together as a country through these challenges. i believe we as a country can respect the independence of our constitution. I also believe that people will put aside partisan ambitions to take part in the democratic processes. I believe if we can do that we can emerge stronger,” Kenyatta said.

He urged those who will vote to do so and go back home afterwards, calling upon Kenyans to regard each other as brothers.

“I say after you vote, and I’ve said this before, please go home. Go back to your neighbour and despite their origin, your neighbour is your brother, your neighbour is your sister,” he said.

The head of the election commission said last week he could not guarantee a free and fair vote, citing interference from politicians and threats of violence against his colleagues.

A top election commissioner, Roselyn Akombe, has quit and fled the country saying the vote would not be credible.

The election is being closely watched across East Africa, which relies on Kenya as a trade and logistics hub, and in the West, for whom Nairobi is a bulwark against Islamist militancy in Somalia and civil conflict in South Sudan and Burundi.