Re-Run Of Kenya's Presidential Elections Marred By Violence
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
There were clashes and violence today during Kenya's rerun of its presidential elections. The results of a vote in August were nullified by the Supreme Court. And today, large sections of the country did vote again. But opposition strongholds including Kenya's third-largest city were paralyzed by protests. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Speaking Swahili).
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Speaking Swahili).
EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: I find Willimina Bahti walking solemnly out of a polling center in Nairobi's Kibera slum. They told her she could not vote here because her precinct was down the street at a place opposition supporters had barricaded with boulders.
What made you decide to come out and vote?
WILLIMINA BAHTI: Because it's my right. And we know - I know - we know those who can take this country ahead.
PERALTA: Opposition leader Raila Odinga first dropped out of the second presidential race and then called for a boycott, saying he was sure the elections would be rigged. It's thrown the country into political crisis. A top electoral official fled to the United States, saying elections could not be free and fair. The Supreme Court failed to decide some key cases because they couldn't get enough judges to show up. And all of that came to a head today at the polls. Willimina Bahti says she hopes something good comes out of all this bad. But she also wants this to be over.
BAHTI: Everything is stuck. We have children who are doing exams right now. We have business people, and we have shops. People cannot move. So we just wished this would go on so that we get over it.
PERALTA: But just down the street, this part of the capital city is under siege, police battling to keep protesters out of one polling place.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTS, GUNFIRE)
PERALTA: Election materials have had to be brought in under police escorts. Some of the workers have been covering their faces because they don't want anybody to know that they're doing this. They're afraid for their safety.
Eric Chacha, one of the protesters, says he's just tired of the government looking out for only two tribes.
ERIC CHAHCA: We are ready to defend our constitutional right even right now or tomorrow or another day.
PERALTA: At least two people were killed across the country, and dozens were injured. In some parts, it got so bad; voting was suspended. And officials say they will try to reopen polls on Saturday. President Uhuru Kenyatta cast his ballot in central Kenya. He said voting had gone well, and then he said Kenya had to address its biggest problem, tribalism.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA: We cannot achieve our goals if we continue to embark on tribalistic politics.
PERALTA: But outside a functioning polling station in downtown Nairobi, I find that may not be so easy. Chukuti Ebowno says he came out to preach peace.
CHUKUTI EBOWNO: We can settle the issue with dialogue, not by fighting. So I'm trying to preach about say no to tribalism.
JUSTUS MAINA GIRITU: Are you happy in our nation?
EBOWNO: Yeah, I'm very happy. I'm not happy that my brothers are fighting each other.
PERALTA: The men who interrupted him was angry. Justus Maina Giritu says the opposition just wants to redistribute land and take power from the Kikuyus, the tribe that he says built this country.
GIRITU: Let them go to hell. If no peace, they go to hell, I'm saying.
PERALTA: By nightfall, police were still battling with protesters. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi.
(SOUNDBITE OF DAMIEN RICE SONG, "VOLCANO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.