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Kenya: Number of spoilt ballots 'worrying'

05 March 2013, 14:59

Nairobi - The Kenyan presidential candidate who faces charges at the International Criminal Court took an early lead on Tuesday as votes were counted the day after the country's presidential election.

With about a third of ballots counted, early results showed Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta ahead with 54% of the vote to Prime Minister Raila Odinga with 41%. Few votes have been counted from Odinga's stronghold, the western city of Kisumu.

Isaak Hassan, the chairperson of Kenya's electoral commission, said Tuesday that results from 10 000 polling stations are in, but officials await results from 23 000 more stations.

"Nobody should celebrate, nobody should complain," he said. "We therefore continue to appeal for patience from the public, the political parties as well as the candidates."

Either Kenyatta or Odinga need more than 50% of the vote to win, otherwise the two will contend in an April run-off. The vote commission has seven days to release certified results.

Hassan said the number of so-called spoiled ballots - votes that won't be counted for not complying with all the rules - was "quite worrying."

Long lines formed around the country on Monday. Election officials estimate that turnout was about 70% of 14 million registered voters.

Attacks by separatists on the coast killed 19 people on election day, and other attacks were seen near the border with Somalia, but the vast majority of the country voted in peace.

hacked to death

In the coastal city of Mombasa, three suspected members of the secessionist group Mombasa Republican Council were charged Tuesday in a court for the murder of four police officers during elections.

On Monday, a group of 200 separatists set a trap for police in Mombasa in the pre-dawn hours, Inspector General David Kimaiyo said. Four police were hacked to death with machetes, coast police boss Aggrey Adoli said.

The separatist group - the Mombasa Republican Council - had threatened election day attacks, Kimaiyo said.

The MRC believes Kenya's coast should be an independent country. Their cause, which is not defined by religion, is fueled by the belief that political leaders in Nairobi have taken the coast's land for themselves, impoverishing indigenous residents.

In addition to the attack in Mombasa, police blamed the MRC for three deadly attacks in nearby Kilifi. An Associated Press reporter visited a morgue and saw four dead young men wearing red bandanas - a sign of the MRC - who had been shot to death.

An AP tally of the violence found that four police and three MRC members died in Mombasa, while six government officials, four MRC members and two civilians died in the three attacks near the coastal city of Kilifi, all according to police and mortuary officials.

After the polls closed, gunshots and an explosion rang out in the city of Garissa, near the Somali border, as gunmen stormed two polling stations, said Farah Maalim, the deputy speaker of parliament. Security forces responded to the attack and the gunmen fled.

2007 post-election violence

The violence in the Mombasa and Garissa areas is separate from the ethnic violence that could break out related to election results, and which was so deadly after the 2007 vote.

Kenya's capital, Nairobi, was quiet on Tuesday and no more violence had been reported in the country.

Kenyatta faces charges at the International Criminal Court on allegations he helped orchestrate postelection violence in 2007-08, when more than 1 000 people were killed.

The US has warned of "consequences" if Kenyatta is to win, as have several European countries. Because Kenyatta is an ICC indictee, the US and Europe have said they might have to limit contact with him, even if he is president.

After Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was hastily named the winner of Kenya's 2007 vote, supporters of Odinga took to the streets in protest, a response that began two months of tribe-on-tribe attacks. In addition to the more than 1 000 deaths, more than 600 000 people were forced from their homes.

Officials have been working to ensure that level of violence does not return this election cycle. Both Kenyatta and Odinga have pledged to accept the results of a freely contested vote.

- SAPA

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