Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo said there had been “casualties from both
sides” when an armed gang ambushed police officers in Kenya’s second city.

“There was a clash between people we suspect are MRC attackers,” Kimaiyo said,
referring to the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a group seeking the
secession of the coastal region popular with tourists.

“Six policemen and six attackers were killed during the confrontation”, he
said, adding that 400 officers were being sent to the coastal province to
beef up security.

Police have blamed the MRC for a string of attacks last year, and the group
had threatened to boycott the polls.

Despite the attack, voters packed the streets in the city.

“We are not worried, we are voting,” said architect Said Said, waiting to cast
a ballot at a primary school.

In one of the most complex polls Kenya has ever held, voters will cast six
ballots, voting for a new president, parliamentarians, governors, senators,
councillors and special women’s representatives. Some 14.3 million Kenyans
are eligible to vote at the more than 30,000 polling stations across the
country.

“It’s a very good day, because we are looking for a change,” said Denis Kaene,
34, an unemployed resident of Kibera, who started queuing at 3:45am. “It
will be a very calm day, I want peaceful elections.”

“We have been waiting for this moment for five years. It is time for new
leaders,” said 38-year old high school teacher Timothy Njogu outside the
Ngara polling station in Nairobi’s Starehe constituency.

Neck-and-neck rivals for the presidency, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his
deputy Uhuru Kenyatta, have publicly vowed there will be no repeat of the
bloodshed that followed the disputed 2007 polls.

Crimes against humanity trials later this year at The Hague-based
International Criminal Court (ICC) for Kenyatta and running mate William
Ruto have raised the stakes: should they win the vote, the president and
vice-president could be absent on trial for years.

After hard-fought campaigns tensions are running high.

In Nairobi’s shanty town Kibera, scene of some of the worst ethnic clashes
during the 2007 elections – and where a tired looking Odinga voted
surrounded by a mob by journalists – thousands waited to cast their ballots,
with the start of voting delayed for almost an hour.

“We can win these elections in the first round… At the end of the day we
will definitely be declared the winner,” Odinga said after voting.

Ahmed Issack Hassan, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)
chairman, said he was “aware of the challenges faced in various parts of the
country” and were addressing them, appealing for voters to “be patient”.

More than 99,000 police have been deployed to ensure the vote is peaceful, and
about 23,000 observers, including 2,600 international monitors, will be on
hand, officials say.

In the western town of Kisumu – the heartland of Odinga supporters who went on
the rampage in 2007-2008 after he was controversially pipped to the top job
by President Mwai Kibaki – people blew whistles and sang as they waited to
vote.

“We slept here last night because we want real change and we want our
candidate – Raila,” said Susan Morell, 30. “We want real change but we want
peace. We will accept the result as it comes out because we are sure of
winning.”

The 2007-2008 violence exposed widespread disenchantment with the political
class, deep tribal divisions and shattered Kenya’s image as a beacon of
regional stability.

More checks are in place this time to limit vote rigging, while a new
constitution devolves powers and has made the poll less of a winner-take-all
race.

Source: AFP

Violence begins as Kenyans start voting in crucial election – Telegraph.co.uk
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