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99 000 cops, 23 000 observers in Kenya polls

04 March 2013, 15:04

Nairobi - More than 99 000 Kenyan police have been deployed to ensure the country’s vote is peaceful, and about 23 000 observers, including 2 600 international monitors, are watching the polls, officials say.

Long lines of Kenyans queued from way before dawn to vote on Monday in the first election since the violence-wracked polls five years ago, with a deadly police ambush hours before polling started marring the key ballot.

The tense elections are seen as a crucial test for Kenya, with leaders vowing to avoid a repeat of the bloody 2007-8 post-poll violence in which over 1 100 people were killed and observers repeatedly warning of the risk of renewed conflict.

Voters standing in snaking lines several hundreds of metres long - and several people thick - crowded peacefully outside polling stations to take part in one of the most complex elections Kenya has ever held.

People began lining up outside polling stations from as early as 04:00 to cast their votes, two hours ahead of the official opening of the polls.

In middle-class areas of Nairobi, parked cars blocked the streets around polling stations, with progress slow in some centres due to delays due to malfunctioning electronic registration equipment.

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

Six ballots

Tensions were high on the coast including the port city of Mombasa with six policemen killed in two separate attacks, including an ambush by some 200 youths armed with guns and bows and arrows, hours before the opening of polling stations.

"Six policemen and six attackers were killed during the confrontation" in the port city of Mombasa, Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo told reporters, adding that 400 officers were being sent to the coastal province to beef up security.

Kimaiyo said the attackers were suspected members of the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a group seeking the secession of the coastal region popular with tourists.

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

Kenyans are casting six ballots, voting for a new president, parliamentarians, governors, senators, councillors and special women's representatives.



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