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Delays as polls body extends voting after flooding in some areas | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s incumbent President and presidential candidate of the Jubille Party Uhuru Kenyatta [left front centre] arrives with his wife, first lady Margaret Kenyatta, to cast his ballot at a polling station in Nairobi. Raila Odinga [center front right], Kenya’s National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential candidate, casts his vote at a polling station in Nairobi. About 19.6 million Kenyans were flocking to more than 40,000 polling stations across the nation to cast ballots for the election of the country’s next president on Tuesday. XINHUA PHOTOS - CHEN CHENG and LI BAISHUN

Delays as polls body extends voting after flooding in remote areas

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on Tuesday extended voting period for regions where heavy rains and flooding made it hard for voters to reach the poll centers in the remote northern region of Turkana.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati told a media briefing in Nairobi that majority of the polling stations opened on time.

"We wish to assure you all that for the polling stations that opened late, we will compensate the time by extending the voting period by the same amount of hours that were lost before opening," he said.

Chebukati said the robustness of the voting kit, the Kenya Integrated Elections Managements System (KIEMS) system provided various voter identification options, which have provided voters with a remarkable voting experience.

IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba said at least 7.84 million people, equal to 40 percent of the voters successfully voted based on a count of 25,000 voter identification kits reporting by 2 p.m. local time and a full count was expected by 6 p.m., an hour after the poll centers closed in Kenya’s landmark general elections.

Chiloba said the figure of the voters does not includes those who voted manually without using the electronic voter identification devices. However, a full outcome would increase when 40,833 kits report.

"We are monitoring the turnout.

"The 40 percent turnout is based on 25,000 kits reporting.

"We should have the full interim report on the voter turnout later," Chiloba told a news conference.

Chiloba said it would take longer to get the specific details of the voters who used the kits.

Voting in Turkana was affected by heavy rains and flooding, which made it harder for the voters to reach the poll centers.


Patriotic family: Kenyans wearing costumes in the colors of Kenyan National Flag take part in voting at a polling station in Nairobi | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Patriotic family: Kenyans wearing costumes in the colors of Kenyan National Flag take part in voting at a polling station in Nairobi. XINHUA PHOTO - CHEN CHENG
In Turkana’s Kapedo Township, where Presidential candidate Aukot Ekuru, was unable to cast his ballot, the IEBC said it would extend voting until midnight and could be extended until Wednesday.

"If we start now, we have to give the voters 12 hours, even if it means going beyond the 12 hours, we will have to finish," Chiloba said.

Meanwhile, opposition presidential chief agent, Musalia Mudavadi, hailed the IEBC and the police for conducting the presidential elections in a fair manner.

He said some security officers were, however, contributing towards campaigns at the polling stations and mobilizing voters.

Mudavadi said his party; the National Super Alliance was concerned about pre-marked ballot papers which was prevalent across many polling centers. "Kenyans deserve the highest standards of honesty," he said.

The IEBC said it would prosecute officers caught in bribery and electoral offenses.

"Any electoral offence would be prosecuted. We are working with the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)," said Chiloba.


Nearly 20 million eligible voters expected to cast their ballots

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s general elections kicked off on Tuesday, with nearly 20 million eligible voters expected to cast their ballots at over 40,000 polling centers to elect public officials, including the president.

Thousands of voters went to polling stations overnight, hours ahead of the official voting time of 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Tuesday.

They lined up in long queues waiting to cast their ballots in presidential, parliamentary and gubernatorial elections to elect some 1,880 public officials.

Today’s vote is the second general election since Kenya adopted a new constitution in 2010.

"I came here at around 4 a.m. (0100 GMT) to vote early so that I can go back to my house to monitor events from television," Nancy Barasa told Xinhua.

"We want peaceful elections to allow more people to carry out their democratic right with the ballot," she added.

"We will ensure that the long wait in queues is limited," electorial commission chairman Wafula Chebukati said on Monday evening.

The organizers will split voters to ensure that each polling center will receive 700 voters at most, Chebukati said.

The situation is generally calm across the country.

However, police reported that eight people were injured in polling stations in the capital Nairobi and the second largest city of Mombasa.

"I am optimistic that things would be better this time ... I want to ensure that I cast my vote very early so I can return home and take care of my children as I wait for the results," said Rosemary Kivuva, a voter in Machakos in eastern Kenya.

There was delay at some stations which received their electronic devices later than expected on Tuesday.

Electronic identity devices were used at the polling stations to identify voters to prevent possible fraud.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is competing for a second term, called on all voters to participate in the general elections.

"I am confident that brighter, happier, more prosperous and peaceful days lie ahead for all Kenyans.

"I see a future where everyone can share in the wealth and prosperity of a modern, 21st century nation," he said in a televised speech before the polling centers opened.

"We appeal to our supporters to turn out in large numbers," said Presidential candidate Raila Odinga.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki is one of the election’s observers.

Opposition leader exudes confidence at vote outcome

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga on Tuesday exuded confidence his run would end in victory in his fourth attempt to lead the East African nation.

Speaking to a select group of journalists, including Xinhua, at his Karen home before heading to his polling center in Nairobi’s populous Kibera slums, Odinga said his first presidential attempt in 1997 was introductory but his second attempt in 2007 was successful although he was rigged out.

Odinga said this year’s vote was a "historic step" for him and his supporters, whom he urged to turn out in large numbers to vote.

"I thank Kenyans for turning up in large numbers to vote.

"I appeal to each and everyone to participate.

"They should not miss an opportunity.

"I am on my way to the Old Kibera Primary School to vote," Odinga said in an interview at his Karen home shortly before leaving.

Odinga voted at the Old Kibera Primary School in Nairobi shortly before midday.

"Today is a great day.

"It is a historic day for the people of Kenya," Odinga said amid cheers from his supporters who had thronged the polling center.

The opposition leader said he would tour polling stations in Nairobi to witness voting and would retreat to his Presidential campaign secretariat to receive reports and updates from his campaign teams.

President Uhuru Kenyatta confident of poll victory after voting

KIAMBU (Xinhua) -- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday expressed his confidence that Kenyans would give him another five-year mandate to finish the job.

The president on Tuesday cast his vote at Mutomo Primary School in his birthplace of Gatundu, Kiambu County. Speaking to journalists, Kenyatta said he was confident of winning because he ran a positive campaign.

"I feel good.

"I feel positive because we ran a positive campaign," said Kenyatta who was accompanied with his family including First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and his mother, former First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, and two of his three children.

Voting opened in Kenya’s presidential, parliamentary and gubernatorial elections Tuesday with 19.6 million voters expected at over 40,000 poll centers to elect 1,882 public officials, including the president.

Thousands of voters started trooping to polling stations as early as 01.00 am Tuesday, hours ahead of the official voting time of 6 am to vote for their choice.

Kenyatta said his party ran on a platform of peace, harmony and progress that resonated with Kenyans.

The president called for peace, urging Kenyans to vote peacefully and go back to their homes to await the results.

"Vote and go home to wait for the results," the president said in response to a question about what his message to Kenyans was on election day.

He urged Kenyans to safeguard the stability of the country.

The Head of State will spend the day in Gatundu visiting neighbors, and waiting for the results to come from the electoral body.

People queue to cast ballots at polling stations in Nairobi | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- People queue to cast ballots at polling stations in Nairobi. About 19.6 million Kenyans were flocking to more than 40,000 polling stations across the nation to cast ballots for the election of the country’s next president on Tuesday. XINHUA PHOTOS - CHARLES ONYANGO and NYALWASH


Many voters were on queues at polling stations as early as 02.00 a.m.

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyans in the capital of Nairobi woke up early Tuesday, braving the morning chill to cast their ballots in an election that is too close to call.

Most voters were on queues at polling stations as early as 02.OO am hoping to elect their leaders and go back to their places of work.

At Komarock Primary School polling center, on the east of Nairobi, voters said they started to queue at 3 am, with voting kicking off at 6 am as scheduled.

"I am happy with the process as it is smooth.

"Once you reach the polling center, you are guided to stand in a queue depending on your name, which was a good thing.

"My voters’ card and identity cards were then checked if they were genuine, then I placed my index finger at the identification machine and my name popped up," recounted Antony Kimenchu, a voter.

He was then handed all the six ballot papers for the candidates vying for various seats and proceeded to the polling booth to vote.

"The process took me about three minutes perhaps because I was among the first people but I know it can even be faster so that more people vote before the 5 pm deadline lapses," he said.

The electoral body was forced to replace a clerk who stamped ballot papers as rejected, and presiding officers in three poling stations in Nairobi over delays.

A photo of a ballot paper stamped "IEBC rejected" has been circulating on social media, prompting the electoral agency to address the matter.

Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati said Tuesday that agents who caused delays in Nairobi were replaced for a smooth process.

Chebukati said they have extended the time for those areas and others where polling stations opened late.

"We have had no major hitches ... apart from a few issues affecting polling stations.

"We have experienced delays in these areas and consequently changed the agents," he told a media briefing in Nairobi.

He further said they sent their teams to places where they are experiencing technical hitches.

"Our officers have been deployed to resolve technical issues in Wajir, Isiolo and Dadaab (in northeast region).

"Our team is on the ground...we have been informed that voting is going on smoothly," Chebukati said.

He asked Kenyans to exercise calm and patience as they work towards free, fair and credible elections.

"We thank Kenyans for making the work of agents easy.

"We are very encouraged by voter turnout."

Chebukati said they will keep the promise of a credible election and urged those who have not cast their ballots to do so.

At Kayole Primary School, another polling station on the east of Nairobi, the queues of voters were similarly long. While the process was smooth, voters complained it was slow.

"The clerks are too slow I wonder if all these people would vote by the time the stations close.

"They must increase their pace," said a voter identified as Samuel.

Most of the voters said they expected a free and fair election that is not marred with any intimidation or violence.

However, at Donholm Primary School, voting was delayed for close to two hours as officials blamed the hitch on lack of election kits and booths.

Hundreds of voters who had camped at the polling stations as early as 3 am got agitated at one point leading to violent scenes.

"It is now about 09.00 a.m. and we are yet to start voting.

"No one is giving us a proper explanation yet the exercise was supposed to start at 06.00 a.m.," said Caroline Otiato, a voter at the station.

There was a stampede at the station as police fired teargas in the air to disperse the voters who had become rowdy.

At least five people were injured, one seriously following the commotion at the polling station that has 25 voting centers.

Brian Bosire, a voter at the station said the problem started when the gate remained closed at the time voting was supposed to have started.

"The gate was broken by irate voters who were agitated because they were getting no explanation from electoral commission officials," he said.

The election pits President Uhuru Kenyatta and his long-time rival Raila Odinga, both who have exuded confidence of winning.

While Kenyatta is hoping to be re-elected based on his achievements, Odinga hinges his hopes on promises he has given, including free education from kindergarten to secondary school.

Kenyans in Uganda vote in country’s presidential polls

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Kenyans living in Uganda on Tuesday joined other diaspora community to cast their ballots for Kenyan’s presidential elections.

Hundreds queued at their embassy here to cast their votes.

William Kahindi, the Deputy Returning Officer of Kenya Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for the Diaspora, told Xinhua that at least 1,184 registered Kenyan voters are expected to cast their votes.

"We started on time.

"The exercise is going on well and peaceful," said Kahindi.

Isaiah Kojwang, chairman of Association of Kenyans in Uganda urged Kenyans to remain peaceful after the elections.

"We are Kenyans.

"We need to remain united.

"We should respect the decision of Kenyans," said Kojwang.

"It’s a tight race.

"It’s hard to tell who the winner will be.

"All I wish is a peaceful ending to this elections and the winner uniting Kenyans as one," said Joshua Moturi after casting his ballot.

Some 250,000 Kenyans in various countries are expected to vote in the Tuesday elections, according to IEBC.

The main race is tightly contested between the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta of the ruling Jubilee party and Raila Odinga of opposition coalition candidate, National Super Alliance.

Kenyans in Rwanda voting for president smoothly

KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- Kenyan nationals residing in Rwanda on Tuesday participated in general elections by casting their votes at the diplomatic mission in the capital city Kigali.

The elections in Kenya are for the President, county governor, senator, Member of Parliament, woman representative and member of county assembly.

The voters began arriving at the Kenyan High Commission in Kacyiru sector, Gasabo district as early as 6 a.m. where a polling station had been established. By 11 am, at least 100 people had cast their votes.

Speaking to Xinhua, Catherine Koskey, the presiding officer for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) at the embassy said that there have been no incidents and voters woke up as early as 6 a.m. to exercise their rights.

"We started at 6 a.m. and are hoping to close at 5 p.m. We are encouraging Kenyans living in Rwanda who are registered voters to hurry and vote before deadline," she said.

According to Koskey, about 850 Kenyans in Rwanda registered to vote at the Kenya High Commission in Kigali.

The main presidential contest is between incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta, the flag bearer of Jubilee coalition and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, leader of the National Super Alliance (NASA).

Also on the list of candidates are six other independent candidates.

"I’m glad that Kenyans have turned up to vote and no incidents and violence.

"I believe things will get better after this election. I pray for peaceful elections," said Eugene Anangwe, a Kenyan journalist living in Rwanda.

Ghana says has no interest in who wins Kenyan elections

ACCRA (Xinhua) -- The Ghanaian government on Tuesday said it has no interest in who emerges victorious in the Kenyan presidential election.

In a statement signed by Mustapha Hamid, Minister for Information, the government said "who wins the presidential elections is the preserve of Kenyan voters."

The reaction came three days after Peter Mac Manu, a senior official of Ghana’s governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), was deported from Kenya after leading a team of the Democratic Union of Africa to observe the election in that country.

"We wish to make it clear that the government of Ghana has no interest whatsoever in who emerges winner in Tuesday’s poll," the statement said.

It said Ghana was praying for a successful and credible election and hoped that the winning candidate at the end of the process would receive the unalloyed support of all.

"That is how Kenya can strengthen her democracy and the peace and stability of the nation," the statement added.

According to the statement, Ghana enjoys strong diplomatic relations with Kenya and would continuously work to deepen that, as well as explore other areas of cooperation between the two countries to the mutual benefit of the two peoples, irrespective of the government at the helm of affairs.

Ghana to probe election observation official’s refused entry into Kenya

ACCRA (Xinhua) -- Ghana’s governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) said on Monday it would investigate the circumstances surrounding Kenya’s decision to refuse entry for Peter Mac Manu, a senior party official, who was billed to observe the upcoming general election in the East African country.

Mac Manu, the NPP’s campaign manager in the 2016 elections, was leading a delegation of the Democratic Union of Africa to observe next Tuesday’s elections in Kenya but was refused entry by authorities over the weekend.

The deportation followed reports alleging that the NPP was supporting the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, to create a parallel election tally result platform, just like it did in Ghana’s elections last year.

But senior officials of Ghana’s ruling party have condemned the deportation of its guru.

John Boadu, acting General Secretary, said the NPP took a strong view on the incident and would launch investigations into it and take a decision.

"Mac Manu is a member of the Democratic Union of Africa, which is a sub-body of the bigger body of the International Democratic Union.

"It is rather unfortunate that the Kenya authorities will behave like that.

"I don’t know what the motive was.

"Whatever it was, it was wrong," he said.

The deputy General Secretary of the NPP, Nana Obiri Boahen, described the allegations against Mac Manu as false.

"They said they will not allow Peter Mac Manu to go there and it is a serious indication that things are not going on well.

"How do you accuse the NPP in Ghana that they want to rig the elections?

"This primitive way of handling matters ongoing in Kenya; we need to be serious about it," he told local media.

Kenyans will vote on August 8 to choose among candidates for the presidency, National Assembly, Senate, and County Governors and County Assemblies.

UN experts urge Kenyans to avoid repeat of violence as voting opens

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Three UN human rights experts have called on Kenyans to maintain the highest standards of behavior before, during and after Tuesday’s general elections to avoid a repeat of the violence that took place in 2007.

Special Rapporteurs on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Annalisa Ciampi, on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and on summary executions, Agnes Callamard said the East Africa nation has taken important steps towards peacefully resolving tensions in the context of elections.

"We call on the Kenyan authorities to do their utmost to ensure peaceful elections as well as a free and fair voting process tomorrow (Tuesday)," the experts said in a joint statement released on Monday night.

"Respect for people’s fundamental rights and freedoms—including the right to vote, freedom of expression, association and assembly are the key to free and fair elections and public participation," they noted.

The experts said Kenya had made significant progress since 2007 when the country plunged into chaos over disputed election results, in strengthening democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

"However, in the light of recent incidents of political violence, the rise of hate speech and prevailing tensions, we emphasize the importance of all those involved in the process to commit themselves to peaceful conduct during and after elections," they said.

"We also call on their supporters to remain peaceful and refrain from any incitement to violence," added the experts.

The Special Rapporteurs welcomed the government’s commitment not to shut down the internet, urging the authorities to ensure that media and civil society could report on and scrutinize the poll unhindered.

They also highlighted the responsibility of security forces to facilitate the holding of peaceful demonstrations, and to hold constructive dialogue with protesters in an effort to defuse any tensions.

"If any of the protests turn violent, the principles of precaution, legality, necessity and proportionality must be observed at all times," they said.

"These tenets are the cornerstone of peaceful elections, and are key to maintaining an environment conducive to political dialogue, as well as the safety of people who have gathered to express their views in a peaceful manner," the experts added.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General calls for peaceful elections in Kenya

UNITED NATIONS (Xinhua) -- United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for credible and peaceful elections in Kenya, asking stakeholders to trust electoral institutions.

"As the people of Kenya prepare to participate in the general elections on Aug. 8, 2017, the secretary-general calls on all national stakeholders to renew their commitment to credible and peaceful elections, as well as their confidence in the institutions constitutionally mandated to conduct the elections," said the secretary-general through his spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"The secretary-general underlines the importance of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as professional and impartial conduct of law enforcement officials during the elections," said Dujarric in a statement.

He said Guterres has been closely following the developments in Kenya’s electoral process and has kept regular contact with relevant political leaders and other key stakeholders.

Some 20 million Kenyan voters go to the polls on Tuesday for general elections, which were overshadowed by the murder of a top election official and claims of plans to rig the vote.

After a disputed election in 2007, violence left at least 1,300 people dead and 600,000 others displaced in the African country.


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